Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Vlasic Reduced Sodium Kosher Dill Pickles

A few months ago I noticed ads and coupons for Vlasic Reduced Sodium pickles. I was rather amazed that a big-name food manufacturer would actually jump on the low sodium bandwagon, so I started looking for the pickles in my local supermarkets. It took a while, but I was finally able to find them last week. I was hoping to find a replacement for the discontinued salt-free B&G and Healthy Heart Market dill pickles. My husband prefers having a whole pickle or spear on the side rather than slices in a sandwich. Vlasic covers both bases: it has lower sodium sandwich sized pickles called “Stackers” and also traditional dill pickles spears. I grabbed a couple of jars of the spears and brought them home to try.


Both my local Raley’s and Safeway stores carry the reduced sodium pickles, so there’s a good chance they are widely available.

As mentioned before, you have a choice of sliced sandwich pickles or spears.

They really are lower in sodium than the regular Vlasic offerings: The package claim is that both products are 25% lower in sodium than their full sodium counterparts. The regular “Stackers” and regular spears contain 210 mgs sodium per serving size, but the lower sodium versions are 150 mgs per serving size.

The pickles taste good, just as you’d expect a dill pickle to taste. The reduced sodium has no negative impact. (Of course that’s to be expected when it’s only reduced 25%.)The texture is good too, crispy and not mushy.


Unfortunately, losing only 25% of sodium content isn’t very helpful for those who must faithfully monitor their sodium intake. It’s probably fine for those without serious health issues – those just trying to cut back a bit. But for anyone whose health depends on a lower sodium regimen, these pickles may not be a good option. Perhaps a “Stacker” on a sandwich every once in a while, but that’d be about it.

The nutritional label for the spears is particularly deceptive. I checked out the label at the store but not thoroughly enough. The spears have 150 mgs per serving – that part is true. What I didn’t notice until I got the jar home is that a serving size is 2/3 of a spear. Yes, you read that correctly: 2/3 of a spear! Who eats 2/3 of a pickle spear? And who logically assumes that a single spear is not equal to a single serving size? Does Vlasic really expect consumers to cut a third off each pickle spear? Or to calculate the correct number of milligrams before eating a spear?

The reality is that an entire spear contains 225 mgs sodium. So what? Well, anyone carefully monitoring their sodium intake might allow an occasional 150 mgs pickle treat every once in a while. But 225 mgs is another story altogether. That would probably require some careful thought and planning to adjust the rest of the day’s intake.


Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed to discover the true sodium content of the pickle spears and very displeased with the deceptive serving size information. This incident reaffirms the importance of vigilantly reading nutritional labels.

There are three important pieces of information to study carefully: the serving size, the number of servings per container, and the amount of sodium per serving. Be sure you understand what the manufacturer considers a serving and how many servings are supposedly in a package. Do NOT let the serving size information fool you. The 2/3 of a pickle spear serving is an example of a totally unrealistic serving size. A can of heat & eat soup may state that a serving size is 1/2 cup. That sounds fairly reasonable at first. You think to yourself, "One can of soup will serve two people." Later you realize that there were supposedly three servings per can and you inadvertently consumed more sodium than expected. Also, do NOT let the percentages fool you. They are based on a 2,400 mg per day diet. Most people on a low sodium diet must stay within a range of 1,500 mgs to 2,000 mgs per day. So the posted percentages are deceptive and may not be relevant to your situation at all.


Mama Squirrel said...

I've linked on Low Sodium Frugal.

Voce said...

So true! Reducing sodium by 25% & then altering the serving size is just another way manufacturers try to do a "head fake" on the consumer. I wish they'd just quietly reduce the sodium 25% across the board for ALL their products. I doubt anyone would even notice. Then, they could reduce it even more (another 25%?) & slap a big label of "50% less" on it. Now, THAT would be something!

shambo said...

Thanks for the link, Mama Squirrel.

shambo said...

Voce, I couldn't agree with you more. I think all food manufacturers could easily reduce sodium content by 25% without anyone noticing at all. But the idea of 2/3 of a pickle spear being a serving just really offended me. I remember trying one of the organic dry soup cups. I checked out the calories & sodium content and was pretty pleased... until I got home and realized that the soup cup supposedly had two servings. Who would have thought that a single soup cup would have two servings! That same deception!

RAHODDER said...

.0I have bought the lower sodium pickles and then I drain the fluid, refill with water, then drain again after an hour and replace with vinegar and water in 1:3 ration. This should considerably reduce the sodium content. Then if you do not have a problem with potassium (e.g. in renal failure or on dialysis) use a commercial salt substitute, (you can add 1/2 to one tsp.) in the jar and shake well. put in refrigerator for at least a few hours - I leave it overnight then shake it again well and its ready.

shambo said...

RA, that's a good work-around. Thanks for sharing it, and thanks, also, for the warning about using potassium based salt substitutes. My cautionary reminder would be to treat the modified pickles as refrigerator pickles (only good for 4-6 weeks) and to use a brine of equal parts vinegar and water to avoid listeria.

I bet you could use your suggestions on any store bought pickle.

genie said...

RAHODDER's suggestion is great. I have been doing something similar, but I think I'll switch to her/his method. I usually take out my spear and hold it under the faucet with running hot water for a bit, then change to cold running water for a while before I eat the pickle. It washes lots of the sodium away, although I am certain much remains in the pickle. The other thing I have noticed about these low sodium spears is that each jar seems to be a little different from the previous one. Maybe it is because I eat entirely too many of these pickles that I notice the difference. Some jars are spicier and the pickles actually burn my tongue a little. Others are much milder flavored. The same is true of the salt content, by taste. I am always a little apprehensive when I open a new jar to see what the pickles will taste like. I order these pickles 10-12 jars at a time, shipped directly to my house. So I have consumed quite a few. I just wonder if anyone else has noticed a variation in the taste from one jar to another.

shambo said...

Genie, thanks for your comment and sharing your observations. I'm glad your method has worked for you. Again, my cautionary reminder would be to treat the modified pickles as refrigerator pickles (only good for 3-4 weeks) and to use a brine of equal parts vinegar and water to avoid listeria.