The Breakfast Challenge
In many ways breakfast is the biggest challnge for the LS/LF diet. Obviously the traditional bacon and eggs is out. No problem, maybe you'll just move to soy-based imitation bacon and Egg Beater-like egg substitutes? Well, that would get the cholesterol down alright, but all the low cholesterol breakfast meat substitutes I have seen so far are sky high in sodium.
Maybe you want to try cereal instead? Unfortunately, the American food processing industry isn't thinking of your needs.
Below is a table showing the 10 best selling cold cereals in the US and their sodium content. (None contain any cholesterol.) Only one, Kellogg's Frosted Mini Wheats, meets the 140 mg cutoff that would allow it to be called "low sodium". Despite all its "heart healthy" labeling, Cheerios is definitely not "low sodium".
Comparison of cold breakfast cereals
Note: US market share data is from www.lavasurfer.com/ which in turn gets its from 2005 A.C. Nielsen Financial Services for the 52-weeks ended July 16, 2005. Sodium data is from Calorie Count. Australian 1997 data is from www.nutritionaustralia.org/ which gives sodium levels/100g. Data shown has been normalized for 40g as a serving size estimate whereas US data uses serving sizes that each vary somewhat from 40 g.
For comparison, the right 3 columns show the top selling brands in Australia. Note that the top 2 with a total 24.5% market share meet the low sodium test. Interestingly in Australia the sales ranking is inverse to the sodium ranking, while in the US they seem independent.
Fortunately, among mainstream cereals there at least are three other low sodium options in addition to Frosted Mini Wheats:
Most, but not all, of the cereals made by Kashi are low sodium or no sodium and are usually found in mainstream stores.
Note that supermarket private label clones of national cereal brands often have different nutritional information than the original and sometimes are healthier. Thus real Grape-Nuts have 290 mg of sodium/serving while Giant's private label clone has only 210 - not "low sodium", but a lot closer.
Your local health food store may have other cereals from processors that are not Fortune 500 firms that are low in sodium. My local store has several no sodium or low sodium cereals from Nature's Path including an imitation of Cheerios and also has no salt/low fat granola in bulk. They also sell LS/LF granola in bulk. (Many name brand granolas are actually quite high in fat.)
Lowsaltfoods.com has a page with salt content of many breakfast foods, but no fat information.
Traditional breads in the US and Europe are made with yeast and salt. These two ingredients interact, so just leaving out the salt doesn't give you proper rising. The kind folks at King Arthur Flour have told me over the phone that generally you can reduce salt amounts by half in home recipes without bad results. They even have a traditional Tuscan no salt bread recipe - it seems that in olden days salt was subject to a high tax in Tuscany so the peasants improvised and developed a taste for this modified bread. Low salt cookbooks do have modified recipes for low salt or even no salt bread - but don't expect no salt bread to be the same as Wonder Bread.
Commercial sodium-free bread can be made, although it is not necessarily the same texture and taste as conventional recipes, and is widely available in Australia. It also spoils faster than normal bread so may need to be refrigerated or frozen. However, sodium-free bread is extremely hard to find in the US for reasons that are unclear. I have never seen a low salt white bread in a store. Also the low salt breads I have encountered have been whole wheat and variants thereof. (But if you want white low salt bread, just make it yourself with recipes that we link to.) Some ideas for finding low/no sodium bread in stores:
So switch to biscuits or pancakes instead? Yes, you could because salt is not as important in baked products without yeast, but pancakes and biscuits are usually made with normal baking soda and/or baking powder that contain sodium. Fortunately, no sodium versions are available -- although not in main stream stores. (Try web-based LS/LF sources or local health foood stores.) Pancakes and biscuits made from these products can be healthy if you avoid additional sodium and saturated fats.
Key, but hard to find, ingredients for low sodium baked goods
Beware of certain commercial pancake and biscuit mixes. Consumer Reports points out that some commercial pancake mixes have more salt per serving than potato chips! An example to avoid:
Some commercial pancake and biscuit mixes have saturated fats, transfat, and cholesterol in addition to hiigh sodium levels. Many used to contain transfat but that is generally gone from items sold at retail although may still be in the wholesale version that restaurants buy. You might wish to think twice about ordering pancakes and biscuits in a restaurant unless you can get some assurances about the ingredients used.
Scandinavian-style crisp flat breads, such as the nationally sold Ryvita and Wasa brands are generally low in sodium and high in fiber, (although they certain aren't as useful for American sandwiches as the soft high sodium Wonder bread). Matzoh/unleavened bread is also available in a no salt version.
LS/LF Cream Cheese-like Spreads for Toast
If you are looking for a change from unsalted margarine for spreading on your no salt bread, you might want to consider:
[Unfortunately you are unlikely to find these products in mainstream supermarkets, but it never hurts to ask the store manager if he can get them. They are more likely to be found in ethnic stores and health food stores.]
You might also want to make a yoghurt spread by placing unsweetened nonfat yoghurt in a strainer with cheesecloth and letting liquid drain out to make it thicker but with the same tangy taste.
[This product is sold in some mainstream supermarkets. Note that nonzero fat versions have similar packaging design so make sure you see "0%" on the package before you buy.]
Feel free to contact me with comments and suggestions: