It seems to me there’s a critical age at which each time you add another candle to your cake, you also add another health care practitioner. If I reviewed my count of medical specialists, let’s say, at age 35, the list might just fit on the head of a pin. And now, I believe I’d need to inscribe said list on something at least as round as a family-sized pizza!
What brings this to the forefront at this particular time, is not my own cadre of doctors, but my husband’s. His personal list now includes a brand new “ologist,” an otherwise lovely man who has further complicated our lives. In the interest of longevity, we already practice a low-fat, low-carb, low-gluten, Paleo, Mediterranean, don’t-eat-white-foods life style. Mostly. With some exceptions. But if we wanted to enjoy even more time on Golden Pond, this new doc on the block strongly recommended that my husband significantly reduce his salt intake.
Eliminating salt from one’s diet may not sound like a big deal. It’s seemingly simple. When eating your scrambled eggs whites, don’t pick up the salt shaker. Or order a side of bacon. Ever. Or make pancakes from one’s favorite healthy pancake mix, because the salt content is enough to keep you afloat even if you can’t swim.
While salt has not been restricted from my diet, at least not yet, what else can a supportive wife do but join her husband on his low sodium journey?
Step One was to search the pantry and refrigerator for offending foods. Out went the ketchup (organic), the soy sauce, the crackers, and the can of mixed nuts. Even something as benign as cottage cheese was now a potential killer. Ever read the sodium content on packaged bread items? Positively terrifying! Life moving forward would definitely be a challenge.
Step Two was a trip to the supermarket to begin the reeducation process. Reading glasses in hand, I pushed my cart up and down the aisles, lifting jars, bottles, cans, and loaves, reading the fine print, and trying to replace my discarded groceries with sodium-free or low-sodium substitutes. I was heavily into condiments when my cell phone rang. It was my husband reminding me that I had been gone for almost three hours. I assured him I’d be home as soon as I finished researching the dairy aisle.
The new reality was that more home cooking was in order. And I certainly don’t mind cooking up a pot of pasta sauce or soup from scratch. Or sprinkling a salad with home-made dressing, sans salt. But baking my own bread? Sorry, but my pioneer instincts stretch only so far.
Therefore, Step Three of the new program was a search for a salt-free bread that came wrapped in plastic and sealed with a twist tie. Success was achieved at my local health food store. There I discovered, in the back of a freezer, a loaf of sliced bread that promised to be my alternative to an acquaintance with yeast. I gasped at the price tag, but, hey, what’s a few extra dollars where health is concerned? This baby was coming home with me.
Anxious to sample a piece before I introduced it to my husband, I removed a frozen slice and placed it in the toaster. When it was sufficiently warm, I took my first bite.
Have you ever considered smearing butter and jam on the cardboard shipping box containing your latest Amazon delivery? I guarantee you that it couldn’t taste much worse than what I was attempting to swallow. The rest of the loaf was immediately discarded, along with the dollars I had just spent. Clearly, my search for a healthy, leavened substitute was not over.
Eating at home is one thing when your diet is restricted, but dining in a restaurant is quite another. And for better or worse, recreational eating has become a major part of our social life. This is particularly true during the winter months, when life in Florida involves reuniting over dinner with friends we haven’t seen in nearly half a year.
Now, added to the requirements for an acceptable restaurant, i.e., location, chair comfort, noise level lower than a subway station, air temperature that does not require a fur jacket, is – will the chef agree to cook your food without salt? The last thing you want when you’re out for a pleasant evening is the wrath of the person in the toque because you requested that he or she put the sauce on the side.
So, gradually, we are adjusting. I’m becoming a very discerning label-reader, with a newly acquired recognition that sodium-free, low-sodium, reduced-sodium, light sodium, don’t all mean the same thing. I’m actually beginning to enjoy salt-less peanut butter, and the memory of that awful bread is slowly fading. Fortunately, I did locate an acceptable substitute, a mere 45-minute drive from our home!
And it’s working. My husband is experiencing positive effects from our new, healthier, though somewhat blander, diet. And the lease on Golden Pond might just be renewed for a few additional, (gulp!) salt-free years.