Low Sodium Meals for Seniors: How to Create Low Salt Meals to Please Even the Finickiest Eater
It is as you feared. Your doctor has officially placed you on a low sodium diet. As visions of flavorless steamed vegetables and dry chicken float through your mind, you begin to wonder, “Are there any good low sodium recipes for seniors? Will I ever eat good food again?”
Do not despair. This guide will help you navigate the world of low-salt meals for elderly adults.
Are you looking for recipes, explanations, and helpful tips? Keep scrolling to find all of those and much more.
Table of Contents
Sodium vs. Salt: Are They the Same?
When you hear the term “low sodium” you likely picture a salt shaker — or, perhaps, the absence of a salt shaker.
Are salt and sodium the same thing? Yes. But also no.
All salt contains sodium — it’s a combination of sodium and chloride — but not all sodium contains salt.
Sodium is a natural mineral that is found in foods. Unlike salt, sodium does not have to be manufactured as it occurs naturally. The human body actually needs a bit of sodium to maintain healthy function. It is the excess buildup of sodium in the body that causes health issues.
The kidneys process sodium and, when there is too much of it, they are not able to properly process the compound, leading to sodium buildups in the bloodstream. This can lead to high blood pressure which puts seniors at risk of heart disease and stroke.
What Is a Low Sodium Diet?
A low sodium diet — or no salt added diet, as some call it — refers to a diet that contains minimal sodium. It is virtually impossible to eat a sodium-free diet but, by eliminating added sodium such as table salt, at-risk seniors can often lower their risk of sodium-related health issues.
The CDC recommends that people seek to consume under 2,300mg of sodium per day. You should always consult your physician to find out what daily intake is best for you as it can vary from person to person. Always talk to your doctor before making any drastic dietary changes.
Why Do Some Seniors Need Low Sodium Meals?
As we age, the way our bodies process food changes. Some seniors find that they need softer meals due to swallowing issues. Some might need to lower their carb intake. Some need to monitor their sodium consumption.
Not all seniors need to focus on low sodium meals but many do. Some health conditions can be drastically improved by reducing sodium intake. For instance, a doctor may suggest a low sodium diet with the following diagnoses:
- Kidney disease
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure
- Calcium deficiencies/bone loss
Having to switch to a low sodium diet because of health complications can be scary and confusing but walking through the process with someone who understands it can alleviate some anxiety.
Here at Senior Services of America, we focus on caring holistically for our residents and that includes providing low sodium meals for those who need them. Our facilities are equipped to make delicious meals that fit the dietary needs of our residents — without sacrificing flavor or health.
5 Tips for Creating Low Sodium Meals for Seniors
Creating low sodium meals doesn’t have to be hard. Here are five easy tips to help you incorporate low sodium meals naturally.
#1: Keep Track of Sodium
Once you know how much sodium you or your loved one should be consuming considering their health needs, you should start tracking your daily sodium intake.
There are a couple of different ways to go about keeping track of it all.
First, if you prefer the more time-honored methods, you can keep a journal. Simply have a page for each day and log the amount of sodium consumed at each meal or snack. Make sure to keep the log updated and accurate — no sneaking random bites of food without tracking them, that sodium will add up quickly.
The other — and likely easier — method is to use a meal tracking app. There are a variety of apps on the market, but most allow you to track each meal and its sodium content. You can also track other things such as calories or sugars.
It might seem daunting at first but, the more you do it, the easier it will get. After a while, tracking sodium intake will simply be second nature.
#2: Plan Your Meals
The best way to prepare for something is to make a plan. If you need to begin reducing your sodium intake, create a meal plan based on low sodium recipes for seniors.
Meal planning looks different for everyone. Some people prefer to just create a menu for each day of the week while others like to spend an afternoon prepping meals and making sure they have everything they need.
No matter your style, there are meal planning methods that will work for you.
As you consider meal planning, there are a few key points to keep in mind:
- If you are used to consistently eating out, begin by slowly incorporating a few more meals at home each week to help ease the transition.
- When buying snacks for the week, stick to unsalted or “no salt added” options such as nuts or veggie sticks.
- Keep in mind that drinks can contain high quantities of sodium as well. Stick with water as much as possible and track the sodium content of any other beverages you might consume.
- Try to shop more in the grocery section of the store. Buying fresh fruits, veggies, and meats can help reduce your sodium intake since these items typically don’t have added salt.
- If you use canned veggies or beans, rinse them thoroughly in a strainer to reduce added sodium.
- Try and limit the amount of pre-made sauces and dressings you use. “Instant” items and flavorings tend to be high in sodium.
#3: Make Wise Food Choices
When deciding what to eat, try and think smart. What is the healthier option available?
Think of it as helping your body feel its best and allowing it to be as healthy as possible. You have to make wise choices on behalf of the rest of your body.
A quick read of the label on your food is a great way to check and see if it fits into your dietary needs.
In the nutritional facts section of the label, you can find information such as how much sodium is in the item, whether they added salt, and more. Making friends with the labels on foods is a great way to make wise choices.
Avoid High-Sodium Foods
While you might be able to modify a lot of your favorite foods to make them more low sodium friendly, there are some foods that you have to be careful with.
Some common foods that are high in sodium include:
- Deli meats
- Breakfast cereals
- Vegetable juices
- Canned soups and veggies
- Condiments and flavor packets
- Freezer meals
- Dairies, such as cheese and butter
- Some seafood
#4: Be Cautious When Dining Out
While you can dine out and keep the sodium levels low, it takes a little bit of maneuvering to do so.
As a rule of thumb, avoid cuisines that rely heavily on sodium-rich flavors, such as Chinese food, unless you can get a low sodium version of your favorite meal.
The good news is that most restaurants offer lower sodium options.
For instance, you could try some of these specific meals:
- Oatmeal or Hotcakes at McDonald’s
- A baked potato or Southwest Avocado Salad at Wendy’s
- Soft tacos, black beans and rice, or Cinnamon Twists at Taco Bell
- A salad or some tacos at Chipotle
Since your loved one may not be able to communicate whether they feel hot or cold, monitoring the room temperature is essential to ensure they are comfortable and protected.
#5: Skip the Salt
It is time to make your table salt back-of-the-cupboard salt.
Your body can likely get the sodium it needs from what is already in your food.
But don’t worry, you aren’t doomed to a life devoid of flavor and all things good. There are a ton of different salt-free seasonings you can use.
Different herbs and spices can add great flavor profiles to your meal without upping your sodium content. You might also find that there are low-sodium versions of your favorite seasonings.
What Can I Eat for Lunch That Is Low in Sodium? Quick & Tasty Low Sodium Lunch Ideas for Seniors
There are many different low sodium options available for lunch. From cold lunches like veggie platters and chicken salad to hot lunches such as soup, you can often create or modify meals that fit well into the reduced-sodium guidelines.
Maintaining a healthy appetite as a senior is important and one great way to do that is to have access to yummy food.
What is a good low sodium meal for lunch? You have tons of options but a few great ones include:
- Tomato soup with breadsticks (skip the added salt in the soup and make sure the breadsticks aren’t sprinkled with salt)
- Hummus and vegetables (keep the hummus low-sodium by not adding salt and focusing on other flavors, such as lemon, instead)
- Beef stew (make sure the meat you use doesn’t have added sodium and that you avoid seasonings containing high volumes of sodium)
What Can You Eat for Dinner That Is Low in Sodium? Heart-Healthy Dinner Ideas Seniors Will Love
There are a variety of healthy low sodium meals you can eat for dinner. Oftentimes, you can modify your favorite meals to better fit your dietary needs. You can eat delicious dinners without throwing off your sodium intake.
Here are some ideas:
- Pasta with low sodium sauces and meats
- Loaded baked potatoes (leave off the bacon and make sure your queso doesn’t have a high amount of sodium)
- Low sodium broth-based soups such as chicken noodle
- Stuffed mushrooms with a side salad (make sure your stuffing is not seasoned with large amounts of sodium and that your salad dressing is low in sodium)
Senior Services of America: Encouraging a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle for the Seniors in Our Care
At Senior Services of America communities, we do all we can to promote health on all levels for all residents. It is our pleasure to offer them a variety of healthy and low sodium meal choices each day.
If you are looking for a community to support you or your loved one during the aging process, check out Senior Services of America’s assisted living communities. We offer a plethora of state-of-the-art amenities and programs, all designed to help you grow old with grace and dignity.