Just as a reminder, the goal of this series of posts is to find ways to create a truly low sodium diet using regular grocery store products, including convenience & processed foods. Together we’ll “visit” the different aisles of a typical grocery store and discover how easily available items can be used and modified to fit a low sodium diet. This stop, Refrigerated Foods:
Most flavored cheese spreads are much higher in sodium content than plain cream cheese. You can lessen the sodium content of a cheese spread by blending in equal parts plain whipped cream cheese or NSA cottage cheese. The flavor will definitely be milder, so you might want to punch it up with a generous sprinkling of your favorite salt-free herb blend. Be sure to let the cheese spread soften, though, before trying to blend it with anything else. As always, be sure to watch your portions and serve the spread with something super low in sodium, like unsalted crackers. On the other hand, you might be better off just making your own cheese spread. Combine softened plain whipped cream cheese with some garlic powder, dried minced onions, and your favorite fresh or dried herbs. You can also add a couple of dollops of something savory/sweet like hot pepper jelly.
Refrigerated dips are easy to deal with: simply add some plain sour cream or yogurt. Find the brand with the lowest sodium content and then blend in at least ½ cup of sour cream -- maybe even equal parts. If you find the flavor too bland, sprinkle in a spice blend that compliments the dip’s flavors and add a couple of squirts of lemon/lime juice or low sodium Worcestershire Sauce. Chill for at least an hour and you’re set.
Be sure to look for lower sodium bacon. Some supermarkets, like Safeway, carry their own store brand, and Oscar Mayer has come out with a lower sodium version too (170 mg./2 slices). Costco also carries low sodium bacon in three pack bundles. If you can find it, buy several packages and freeze them. Cook up an entire package at a time. I bake the slices in the oven or use my large George Foreman Grill. Then I package up 2 slice portions in plastic wrap and freeze in a large freezer bag. Whenever I want to add some pizzazz to cooked vegetables, salads, soups, or sandwiches, I pull out a couple of slices. You can also save the bacon grease.
There are no really easy solutions when using prepared fresh sausage like Jimmy Dean’s breakfast sausage. The regular sausage has a whopping 520 mg. for a 2 oz. serving. However, the Jimmy Dean Light version has only 350 mg. for the same 2 oz. serving. The Bold, Italian, and Extra Mild sausages have even lower sodium contents. Different varieties and other brands may be higher in sodium content. Link type breakfast sausages are so high in sodium that you’d have to limit yourself to just one link. Again, read the labels carefully.
Nevertheless, the chub packages offer you a bit of flexibility. For example, if you wanted to use the sausage crumbled, you could mix equal portions sausage and unseasoned ground pork, turkey, or chicken. Squish everything together, like you would with meatloaf mix. Or if you're in a hurry just fry the meats up together in a sauté pan without thoroughly mixing together. You’d get some of the sausage flavor but not as much salt. The resulting sausage/ground meat combo could be used for pizza, spaghetti, omelets, and casseroles – all kinds of things. This idea works well with bulk breakfast sausage and also bulk or fat links of Italian sausage. Just remove the link sausage from the casings and combine with the unseasoned ground meat before using. You could do the same kind of thing to make homemade sausage patties. But for patties, you'd really have to mix up the raw meats together. I use vinyl disposable glove for that job.
So there are ways of dealing with items from your grocer's refrigerated foods case. You just have to be vigilant regarding reading labels and watching portion sizes. Also, you have to be willing to do a little extra work in order to meet your low sodium requirements.