January 11, 2013
The World of Low Sodium Diets
from Chef Allan Gazaway
Chefs are constantly challenged with coming up with new ways to make great tasting food. In this pursuit, many chefs incorporate a myriad of ingredients and techniques to achieve this goal. As chefs, we usually approach our work from a taste standpoint. With diners’ rising concern for varied nutritional options, such as low sodium menu items, chefs are challenged to create dishes without salt. We have to look at options to replace sodium with other flavors. As simple as this might sound, there can be negative effects on the dining experience by removing salt. Replacing sodium with different ingredients, such as rubs, sauces, and breadings, can enhance flavor when sodium is reduced.
Diners with strict adherence to low-sodium diets still desire flavorful meals. Therefore, chefs can use alternative ingredients while still meeting low-sodium dietary restrictions.
Reducing sodium can adversely impact mouth feel which may result in a negative taste reaction. Through the sense of taste, many interactions take place to provide the experience. Knowing this, we can look for options that enhance flavor to provide a better dining experience. Improving flavor and mouth feel can also be accomplished by addressing the thickness of the sauce component within a recipe. For example, replacing a thin broth with a thickened sauce can improve flavor by extending the time that a sauce exists on the palate.
Rubs, marinades and breadings provide additional avenues for flavor enhancement. But keep in mind that any time a breading is used sodium could be added because of the breading ingredients.
A positive dining experience can be achieved in a world of reduced sodium by using alternative ingredients for flavor enhancement. By learning a little about how different ingredients contribute to the taste and texture of a dish, you can learn to make healthy changes to a recipe that won’t destroy its appeal.