Lately I am seeing many clients that wish to get off of their blood pressure medication because of side effects and feel that they have to resort to eating a bland diet. I am thrilled to be able to show them that dining can be enjoyable especially when they are well-educated.
Let me tell you about my client John and his wife Adelle who were referred by a local physician. The doctor was inclined to increase his medication because his numbers were not in the normal range but said “if you see Linda we’ll wait two months”. John and Adelle are retired, kids are gone, Adelle wanted a break from cooking and they felt that this was finally the time to enjoy more restaurants and travel but John expressed some nervousness in going to restaurants because of a realistic fear the food could raise his blood pressure.
After seeing John’s food diary I decided our basic strategy was to limit his salt intake to 2000 mg of sodium per day which is equal to a teaspoon of salt. I saw that his choice of foods – breads, bacon, soups, chips, and deli meats – included heavy doses of salt so we first focused on how to read food labels, pointing out that in spite of claims on packages, a low sodium product is 140 mg per serving.
As I always do in my counseling, I strive to take what my clients enjoy and set up plans based on favorite foods. I introduced John to breakfast options that have no salt such as oatmeal or even a slice of salt free bread with unsalted almond or peanut butter. I also recommended that John enjoy an omelette made with unsalted butter, Swiss cheese that is naturally low in salt at 60 mg/ slice, spinach and mushrooms along with fresh salsa that has very little salt. I also introduced him to Kashi Go Lean as the best cold cereal that has 80 grams of sodium per cup.
I told Adelle, though I appreciate her desire to go out, there is a short list of foods that must be prepared at home to avoid salt traps. These include homemade soups that easily can substitute wonderful fresh herbs and spices for salt, baked turkey breast and chicken with BBQ sauce, vinaigrette salad dressings, marinara and cheese sauces that John loves. I introduced Adelle to salt free chicken stock as well as vinegars that provide a terrific flavor when splashed onto cooked veggies. She now cooks a great sauce for John’s beloved spaghetti consisting of chopped tomatoes along with fresh basil, oregano and garlic, adding some aged parmesan because it only has 75 mg/ T of sodium. Adelle also loves to make beans soups and I told her she can buy salt free beans or dried beans and soak them overnight and cook them the next day.
Adelle and John did not realize that all breads have an average of 150 mg of sodium per slice, so I suggested using salt free bread for their sandwiches adding yellow mustard (55 mg per teaspoon). In addition, John was happy to learn he could still enjoy his snacks such as unsalted baked chips, unsalted nuts or even dry cereal that is low in salt.
I told Adelle and John that it would be my job to make sure they will enjoy their glorious retirement in restaurants and become more comfortable travelling. We have discussed the advantages of ordering fish, beef or chicken that is freshly cooked without salt where olive oil, lemon, pepper and herbs are now very popular. Though salt is a favorite addition of many cooks to veggies, we discussed the need to be firm with the waiter that you cannot have salt. A side salad is great to order and many restaurants will bring you a decanter of oil and vinegar. I emphasized that John can still enjoy a restaurant meal with salt if he keeps the other meals of the day relatively salt free to meet the 2000 mg sodium goal. We also discussed the advantages of staying in condos with kitchens which will allow for eating breakfast and some lunches in and dinner out.
I advised John that he must drink 6-8 glasses of water per day to get rid of the salt he is consuming and also to walk 30 minutes per day. He agreed that he would begin doing both new practices.
I am glad to inform you that after working with John for a month his blood pressure is the best it has ever been in years and he has lost 10 pounds. They have decided to go visit their kids in Texas and John says he is not scared of eating in restaurants anymore.
I will continue to follow John thru phone and e-mail even in Texas and assist him with eating at his daughter’s home.
The good news is that John’s visits were covered by his Aetna PPO insurance with a small copay. Please feel free to call me at
(925) 855-0150 or e-mail me at Lifeweight1@yahoo.com and tell me about your nutritional concerns. Visit my Homepage and read past articles, recipes and nutrition tips
in my blog section.