Navigating the Low-Sodium Diet: Tips for seniors and caregivers

Sodium is an important element in sustaining life. In fact, it helps the body retain water, aids in digestion, helps muscles and nerves work properly, keeps minerals in the bloodstream and maintains blood pressure. For many of us, the problem is not that we have sodium in our diets; it is that we have too much sodium in our diets. Water follows sodium in the body, so when we consume more sodium than we need, extra water is drawn out of the body’s tissues to dilute it and fluids build up. Especially as we age, keeping sodium balanced can help maintain a healthy blood pressure and reduce the risk of a stroke or heart failure.  

If you or your loved one have been placed on a low-sodium diet and suddenly find yourself diligently checking labels, you’d be surprised at how much hidden sodium is found in items regularly on your grocery list. When we think of sodium, we automatically associated it with table salt (sodium chloride), but it is important to remember that preservatives and sweeteners also contain a variety of sodium, which makes that daily intake number rise quickly.

We live in an age of preserved foods where we can have just about anything, just about any season. While this increases convenience and variety the tradeoff of preservation is the added sodium. It can be really difficult to change or adapt the way we eat, but one of the best ways to control sodium intake is to prepare clean meals at home and to pay close attention to the ingredients used to comprise your diet. For example, things that are designed to have a long shelf life such as canned vegetables, juices, soups, pastas, deli meats, frozen meals, mixes, etc. can last a long time because they have a high amount of sodium. One of the simplest ways to adjust the sodium intake is to introduce as much fresh food as possible.

For example, instead of buying canned soups, a food processor can help you prepare fresh vegetables and proteins to freeze for soup for later. If there are options for low-sodium broths to use as a base all the better. Also, when it comes to introducing flavor into the meal opt for fresh herbs like rosemary, garlic, onion, basil, thyme, or black pepper. Watch your liquid flavoring as well. For example 1 lemon contains 1 mg of sodium, while 1 tbsp. of soy sauce contains 1,000mg of sodium and 1 tbsp. of salt contains 6,976mg of sodium. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you’re age 51 or older, or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, you really should aim to intake 1,500mg of sodium or less each day.

From sodium tracker tools and apps to low-sodium recipe books, there are lots of resources online to help you make positive and incremental changes that you can live with.

If you are a family caregiver helping maintain a diet for a loved one, we understand how complex the task can be, especially when time resources are stretched. In-home caregivers from Sound Options can be an invaluable asset to the family household during any time of transition whether it is after a recovery in the hospital, the death of a loved one, or a diagnosis with a chronic illness. From grocery shopping to preparing meals in the home, certified nursing assistants can provide the attention, knowledge base, and patience to help an aging loved one adapt their diet and eat well. Give us a call to start getting support around your table today at 800.628.7649.   

Published on June 24, 2015.