Some Thoughts on Lower Sodium (& Sugar)

Getting there is half the fun…

We all recognize the need to keep balance in our diets, and many of us are already on reduced fat, salt, sugar diets, not to mention other restrictions in meeting our nutritional needs. It takes everything we have to meet the great challenges in our busy lives of keeping to the prescribed programs associated with all these things.  It is difficult to watch and learn how to become better cooks in our own kitchens when the emphasis is on nuances that seem in conflict with what we need to do to meet our  restricted needs.  Hopefully, the following info will help and we welcome any feedback of tips and tricks you’ve all learned to make eating good food and keeping devoutly to our restrictions for the sake of our health.

Brining for Low Sodium (& Sugar) Diets

Brining, for adding succulence to some proteins, is practically an essential, but since brining requires salt, (and often  sugar plus etc, for flavor) it is a process that must also be used with caution for people on restrictions of sodium (and sugar.  Since sugar is often recommended in a brine, sugar becomes a concern as much as the high sodium levels in brined foods.)

There are  a few of ways to utilize this process without creating a forbidden food.

  1.  Use of a lower-sodium brine
  2.  A rinse and dry of the surface of proteins that has been brined to reduce overall #s.
  3.   Leave sugar out of brine all together to lower those numbers.  If sweetness is the required flavor, the use of artificial sweeteners or non-sugar sweeteners may be used.

Let’s take a look at these suggestions.

Usual Brine Recipe:  1 gallon of water + 1 cup fine kosher salt  (plus 1/2 c. sugar and other flavoring ingredients, as desired.)  USE NO SALT WITH IODINE OR ADDITIVES.  

Brine meat (protein) by adding salt (sugar, and sometimes with other seasonings for adding specific flavors) to water, stirring until the salt ( & sugar) dissolves then add the protein (meat), marinating for a period of time, usually an hour or more (depending on the size of the protein being brined).  In the hour’s time salt and sugar draws moisture into a usual “dinner” sized portion of meat, adding a juiciness to the cooked meat that provides desired succulence.  A whole chicken, or turkey, large roast, etc will obviously require longer timing and more brine.  The shorter the time meat has to “brine” the greater requirement of volume of salt (sugar+)in the brine.  If you use a longer process,  you can lower the amount of salt (etc) and still achieve a more luscious result without as much sodium (or sugar) in the finished results.

When removing the meat from the brine, a quick rinse and  a pat dry will also reduce the surface volume of salt (or sugar) thus lowering the over-all counts.

The point you want to remember here is that eating protein foods that have healthier lowered levels of fat are often difficult to swallow for people with health issues because of the texture and the lack of moisture.  It is important to make these foods (lean meats i.e. loin  and very lean pork, chicken and turkey breast, lean beef, etc) palatable  to encourage their use.  Without modification, what is the sense of having these foods available?  If they cannot be chewed or swallowed, they will not be eaten.  All of the appropriate food in the world will not benefit a person with these restrictions, low salt/sugar/fat requirement, if they don’t eat them.  Truth is they will substitute other foods with higher fat or otherwise more edible and desirable characteristics, canceling out the possible benefits in the leaner protein,  OR EVEN WORSE, they just won’t eat!

Some General Info on Brines

The Rule of What to Brine:  Any meat that will be cooked for a lengthy time, smoked or will be “well-done” can be improved by the process brining.

Other Tips

Reducing Sodium (Sugar and other additives) in Processed Protein Foods

Sausages, Wieners, Bacon, Hams, Salted Fishes all can be made healthier by using a “hot rinse” method to reduce the added components to preparations of these items.

This also works for some prepared meat, meat substitutes, sandwich meats, but renders a less acceptable result.

Method 1:  (for link sausages, wieners, bacon, ham, meat substitutes and sandwich meats)

  1. Bring to a boil, enough water to cover the meat (protein) in question.
  2. Add meat (protein) and poach for 2 minutes.
  3. Remove, drain and dry meat (protein)
  4. Discard poaching liquid.
  5. Use or prepare the poached meat (protein) as desired, i.e.  bbq, grill, add to sandwiches, sandwich spreads, casserole or other preparation.

Bacon that has been pre poached may be laid flat and frozen for up to 2 months.  Amazingly, it fries up nicely without all the grease splatter.  It is worth the extra trouble just in savings of clean up.


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