Low-salt cooking

Ricotta is a low salt cheese to begin with, and most everybody who makes homemade ricotta loves the flavor and texture. Key, of course, is the quality of milk that you use. It is possible to make it with something other than whole milk if you are looking to minimize fat. I think I have seen recipes using non-fat milk. But the lower you go in fat, the less opulent the result. If you like the flavor of lemon, it can be nice to use it as the curdling agent for ricotta.

If it is very cold where you are, your body is going to want to hang on to some fat for protection, and it will continue to make fat no matter what you eat. So dressing warmly is good (you should anyway if you are dieting!) and eating warm foods will help encourage the body to shed fat. If low-sodium chicken broth is something you eat, a flavorful low-calorie and very warming soup is Spanish garlic soup. Often the recipes you find online are needlessly complicated. The soup is really broth, garlic, and eggs. Period. But if you like flavors like smoked pimenton, saffron, cumin or sherry (and if you feel like going to the trouble of buying them), they add more dimensions.

Finding warm places to exercise in NYC in winter is a challenge if you don’t join a gym, espcially since some of the biggest indoor space with public access is food markets or museums which charge a fortune. Train stations and the old department stores can get you 30-40 minutes of brisk walking and stair climbing. Department stores are warmer.

Here’s another quick and flavor hot soupy recipe if you like mussels and spicy flavors. I would use white wine instead of chicken broth:

Mussels are a tremendously nutritious low calorie food and are extremely easy to cook in a whole variety of ways, including with Asian flavors.

If you can get frozen or fresh octopus where you are, and if you like the flavor, there are good spicy octopus recipes with chickpeas and garlic that are suprisingly low calorie and rich tasting. Squid too. However, both take much longer to cook than mussels.

I think about anything would be good without salt. Lots of dishes startrs with the holy trinity (their mirepoix) and it adds lots of flavor.

Shrimp Creole is a favorite. I also use it in my First Monday of the Month red beans and rice.

We also like it in tomato soup. Instead of starting with tomato soup use tomato sauce. This aha/duh moment came after canning my own. The canning recipe is just tomatoes pureed with onions, celery , basil, garlic and a bit of sugar and salt added.

I avoid the fish and soy sauce and rely on lime, vinegar, chilis and herbs for flavour.
Thai Salads - use herbs, lime juice and peppers to season
Vietnamese Bun - if using Nuoc Cham, make it without fish sauce
Thai curries - substitute rice vinegar for fish sauce
Malaysian and beef curries tend to be lighter on the fish and soy sauce, but watch what’s in premixed curry pastes. Laksa and Beef Rendang can be made without additional salt

They will have a different taste, for sure, but with time you’ll get used to less salt. It takes a bit of experimentation to get it to your taste.

It has always been my understanding that the colder the temps, the more calories you’ll burn. I think Holy Terroir has it backwards. But you should not make medical choices based on the replies to your topic - verify the validity of these suggestions with qualified professionals.


Congratulations on your success so far! It’s admirable that you are being proactive and taking this seriously.

You need nutritional yeast. Whole foods at union square has it in the bulk bins for the best price. It has this faux salty taste and just 25mg sodium per 1/4 cup (which is quite a lot). Also high in protein, fiber, and a huge array of vitamins and minerals.
It’s delicious on popcorn, pasta, salads, stirred into soup or sauces… Often used as a sub for parmesan. I’ll dump it on near anything :)) - and i’m very pro salt yet never add salt to dishes i use nutritional yeast on/in.

I’ve been making a lot of braised cabbage with cider vinegar and coconut milk lately. It’s rather simple and just needs some time to bubble away.
For two people, generous entree serving:

  • use a deep saute pan with a lid (if no lid you can cover with foil)
  • heat 2TB oil (i use coconut oil but whatever you like), and add a chopped medium onion, saute until translucent on medium heat
  • add approx 1/2c cider vinegar
  • add 1/2 head thin sliced cabbage (or two bags of trader joe’s “cruciferous crunch”
    -add one can coconut milk
  • add lots of pepper, plus a good pinch of red chili flakes
  • cover and let simmer for 20-30min
  • uncover and simmer to reduce liquid or if the cabbage is soft enough you’re done
  • i’ll often add some cubed firm tofu to warm through at the end and make this more of a meal. Also great served over rice or barley

I agree (at least with that part, but my doctor would agree with me about temps and the body’s response to storing fat).

Thanks for saying that, g. CH used to annoy me immensely by allowing lay people to give medical advice. I reported it regularly to no avail.

I hope Pan never thought I was giving medical advice intended to supplant information he is receiving from doctors, but I am not sorry I alerted Pan to the relationship of gall stones to too-rapid weight loss, and I hope people won’t go around reporting posts about low-salt diets for medical reasons or weight loss diets in general or other healthy- related diets where people talk about health issues. Perhaps it is helpful to always include the caveat that doctor’s have the last word on such matters, but I would never have thought to report graygarious for advising Pan that cold weather burns calories.

But I have the feeling everybody would like to see this thead return to low-salt cooking.

We are a low salt household as I have a borderline (inherited, thanks Mum and Gran!) blood pressure problem, and going low salt means I don’t take drugs. I would simply say, eliminate all salt in cooking (add it at the table if needed), use sea salt (you seem to need less of this) and allow your palate to adjust, it takes some time. I check labels on any ready meals.

I do find some food in restaurants salty, but rarely too salty, and I feel it’s okay to eat all that salt on the occasions (1 or 2 times a week) I eat outside the home.

I do belong to my local YMHA, so no worries about a warm place to exercise.

So far as I know so far, I don’t need to avoid full-fat items. I figured I’d have to make my own stocks from scratch. Do you have any recommendations of very low-salt stocks available in stores?

That chicken soup sounds good. I would like all the flavors except the pimenton. There’s some chemical in bell peppers and some similar types of peppers (but not most hot peppers) that upsets my stomach.

I find mussels a difficult item to get really fresh, and since they’re filter feeders, I limit my intake, anyway. However, my girlfriend and I do like them, so I could definitely imagine cooking with them occasionally. Do you have a preferred shop in Manhattan (or perhaps a nearby part of Brooklyn) that sells reliably fresh, completely non-fishy-tasting mussels?

I’m off octopus for personal reasons but still eat and like squid (until I find out they’re just as intelligent as octopuses…) :smile:

My blood pressure seems to be declining quite nicely the last few days, but I’m still on pretty high doses of a couple of drugs, so I think it’s definitely not appropriate for me to eat salty restaurant food at all for now. Maybe after I lose more weight and am able to go off more medication.

Thanks a lot for the Cajun and Southeast Asian ideas, GinaMarie and Hal_, and on your interesting ideas, Ttrockwood! I’ve never heard of nutritional yeast and will definitely look into it. Does it work well put into dishes like stews at the same time salt would be put in, or is it best sprinkled on at the table?

Your cabbage recipe reminded me that I used to really enjoy my mother’s Austrian-style red cabbage with apples and caraway seeds. I should make that soon, perhaps with goulash, as she used to do.

Yesterday, my girlfriend and I made an improvised, Indian-inspired scrambled egg dish that came out very well. I will try to reconstruct the recipe, as some amounts were not exactly measured:

Extra virgin olive oil as needed
1 teaspoon amchur (unripe mango) powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon coriander powder
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large white onion, sliced
5 large organic eggs, roughly beaten
About 1/2 to 3/4 cup full-fat Fage yogurt
The juice of about 3/4 of a lemon, with seeds removed
About half a bunch of fresh cilantro including stems, roughly torn into pieces.

Fire the olive oil in a frying pan for a short time at a moderate flame
Add the spices, lower the flame as necessary and mix continuously to prevent burning or clumping.
A minute or two later, add the garlic. Cook for a while, then add the onion. Continue to stir as needed and add more olive oil if needed.
When the onion seems more or less fully cooked, add the eggs. Stir until the eggs are fully cooked.
Add the yogurt and cook, mixing as needed, until the water is substantially reduced.
Add the lemon juice. Continue to stir as needed and cook for a few more minutes.
Taste and see if any ingredients need to be added for more balance of tastes.
If everything tastes right, add the cilantro, stir for a couple of minutes, try again, and when ready, serve. The dish should have a sauce but should not be watery.
Add additional yogurt and sprinkle ground cayenne pepper at the table to taste; eat with a bit of low-sodium pita if desired.

I think I’ll go to Grand Sichuan St Marks this evening and have Sauteed Spicy Chinese Broccoli, which they are able to make deliciously for me without salt. I have 7 apples I plan to halve and bake later with cinnamon, allspice and a bit of ground ginger.

I’ll pop in here to say that the Greenmarket vendors (Blue Moon and Pura Vida for sure, and probably PE & DD as well) very often have mussels, for $4-$6/lb. I’ve never been disappointed with the quality, although I was disappointed today because I arrived too late and there were only four left. So I got clams.

It is an excellent idea to make your own stock. don’t know if the typical low-sodium chicken broths sold in cans in stores in the US are low-salt enough for you. Check the labels. But if you are willing to make your own stock, it will be better in every way.

I live in Italy! Do either of these links help?


I hate to tell you, but I never met a stupid squid.

Red cabbage with apples is a great winter dish.

A few years ago, I bought the KAL brand of nutritional yeast touted by a respected Chowhound regular. I was completely underwhelmed. IME, it was a totally inadequate sub for both salt and cheese. The aroma was that of a used baby-burping towel. YMMV.

I have used nutritional yeast both ways, added to a dish while cooking as well as at the table- if you enjoy the flavor as much as i do then adding to the top of the dish at the end is best since you taste it the most that way. When incorporated it adds a bit of umami background flavor that is hard to pinpoint.
There are also certainly people like GG who hate the stuff so YMMV.
Bon app did this article that is helpful (and the charred broccoli dish they mention is amazing, i’ve made it many times now)

Another thought is to make your own quick pickles to have as a garnish or ingredient that adds a good punch. You can use anything from greens beans to carrots to jalapenos. This is great how to- just minimize the salt and use a heavy hand with the spices and garlic

I had no idea you were in Italy!

Your remark about squids made me laugh. :smile:

Wow, not good! I’ll have to get a very small amount to try.

I love pickles, so I’ll have a look at that link. Thank you.

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