Seasonings for LS/LF Diets
If you take standard recipes and just take out the salt and fat many dishes will taste pretty bland. Thus long term diet compliance requires making your diet tasty and appealing. Hence seasonings are vital to keeping your LSLF diet appealing to you and others who share your table.
First issue: to replace salt with a salt substitute or not?
Some people think it is better to go "cold turkey" rather than play with substitutes. The theory goes that weaning yourself from all salty flavors, including substitutes, will allow you to concentrate on low salt/no salt foods. However, it is acknowledged that not everyone can do this readily. Despite the Madison Avenue hype that salt substitutes are really substitutes, presently available substitutes have taste issues and raise new medical issues for some people as discussed below.
The potassium chloride (KCl) in most substitutes has an odd metallic taste to many people. In the basic KCl category is FRENCH's "Original NoSalt Sodium-Free Salt", "All the flavor without the sodium".
Some brands try to avoid this taste by mixing the KCl with other ingredients or even with some salt. For example AlsoSalt is a mixture of KCl with a natural amino acid. They state,
Nu-salt is KCl mixture with a "flavor modifier" and "taste modifier" and comes with this statement, "Please consult with your physician before using Nu-Salt."
Morton Lite Salt is an example of a KCl mix with normal salt (NaCl). (Note that it has significant amounts of both sodium and potassium and comes with this statement from its manufacturer, "Should not be used by persons on a sodium or potassium restricted diet unless approved by a physician.")
Suggest you decide for yourself which is better if you decide to use such substitutes and review the box below:
Bread recipes generally require salt because of how it interacts with yeast - not just for taste reasons. King Arthur Flour sells Zalt, a reduced salt product that they claim gives the same result in bread baking with half the sodium. (They claim it can also be used as a salt substitute on the table.) On the phone King Arthur also has told me that generally you can decrease the salt in bread recipes by half without ill effects on the bread rising. (Note that the recipe page has links to several no/low salt recipes for bread.)
The key to making LS/LF tasty is to season it to make it interesting to your palate. Tasteless food may be healthy in the short term, but discourages long term sticking to a healthy diet. Most Americans have been addicted to salt by mainstream manufacturers, perhaps in a way analogous to the way tobacco manufacturers tried to addict people to nicotine. There are other ways to make foods tasty.
Most basic spices, e.g. pepper, basil, and oregano, have little or no sodium and no fat. These can be used to pick up the flavor of other ingredients without impacting your diet. Mainstream packaged spice combinations and sauces, though, usually have salt added in large quantities. Below are spice blends thatare saltfree:
Two Wisconsin-based merchants, both founded by the same family, offer a huge selection of individual spices and a wide variety of salt free spice blends that are more interesting and zestier than the Mrs. Dash varieties, which after all are made by a Fortune 500 company for sale in mainstream supermarkets. Below are also 3 other comprehensive sources of tempting salt free spice blends.
Trader Joe's , consistent with their apparent unannounced policy of stocking many no salt/low salt products, has several no salt spice mixes: 21 Seasoning Salute, Barbecue Grill & Broil, Poultry Grill & Broil (" a versatile blend of traditional poultry herbs with an added kick from mustard, peppers, garlic, and onions") , and Steak and Chop Grill & Broil.
The Gaylord Hauser Brand is a health food maker with a variety of spice mixes, several of which are no salt. They are available over the web or in health food stores.
The traditional Tabasco sauce has some salt in it, but no sodium hot sauces are available also from more obscure brands. For example, Dave's Gourmet Total Insanity hot sauce.
McCormick Spice, the large mainstream spice supplier makes tons of high salt products, but hidden in their product line are some low salt gems. Unfortunately, it is impossible to find them on their web site which has little of interest to those with LS/LF needs. But Salt Free Lemon & Pepper is a tasty product available in main stream stores. Of course, basic spices (as opposed to mixtures with salt added) from McCormick and other sources are generally low in salt.
Goya Foods, "The premier source for authentic Latino cuisine, Goya Foods is the largest, Hispanic-owned food company in the United States", has some hidden flavor gems among it product line that is generally of little interest to those needing LS/LF diets. These products are more available in the East than in the West. I am particularly fond of their Mojo Chipotle marinade, a spicy concoction with only 85 mg of sodium/serving.
Worcestershire sauce has no fat and only 65 mg of sodium per teaspoon (using numbers for Lea & Perrins brand). By comparision, common brands of soy sauce have sodium in the range of 900-1300 mg/tablespoon or 300-430 mg/teaspoon! The lowest sodium soy sauce I have found in the US so far is from the relatively obscure Yamasa brand with 520 mg/tablespoon or 173 mg/teaspoon. (Yamasa is hard to find in mainstream stores, but is often sold in Asian stores.) So while it may be hard to substitute worcestershire sauce for soy sauce on sushi, you may want to try it in other recipes.
Many recipes use bacon or sausage for flavoring. These add both fat and salt. But consider a no sodium smoke flavoring such as an alternative to spice up your food, for example Colgin's Natural Pecan No Sodium Liquid Smoke, "old smokehouse flavor in a bottle", that adds neither fat nor salt.
Dried tomatoes may not be a conventional seasoning, but I find them helpful for LS/LF diets due to a high concentration of flavor. They have no fat, 5 calories, and 42 mg of sodium per piece. Dried tomatoes are sold in 3 forms: a dried brittle form, a somewhat moister form - comparable in texture to dried apricots, and a moist form packed in oil with spices (which, of course, has unsaturated fat from the oil). The dried apricot-like form is somewhat hard to find but it is perhaps the most useful form since they can be cut and used directly in many dishes and sandwiches. Safeway sells a type of the dried apricot-like form labeled "Bella Sun Luci extra-moist" in resealable plastic packages.
The brittle form has to be reconstituted with water for an hour or two or used in cooking in moist dishes from which they can absorb moisture, such as stews or scrambled eggs/egg-beaters. (The smaller the pieces you cut it into, the faster it absorbs moisture.) Watch out if you buy the packed-in-oil form to check if the sodium and fat are increased significantly from the basic product.
Vinegars generally contain no salt and add a "zip" to food that is somewhat comparable to salt. Fortunately, we live in an age where even mainstream supermarkets stock balsamic vinegar and a variety of flavored vinegars. I suggest you experiment with such vinegars as an alternative to salty salad dressings, as a topping on vegetables, and added to other dishes including sauces.
Feel free to contact me with comments and suggestions: