Dietitian to chat about salt, sugar and more

October 31, 2008

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Carol Gilmore, Lawrence Memorial Hospital's assistant director of Food and Nutrition Services, will answer questions about how to reduce the amount of salt in your diet. She also will answer other dietary questions you might have.


I would like to welcome Carol Gilmore, a dietitian from Lawrence Memorial Hospital, to the News Center today. Thank you for taking time on this beautiful day to answer some questions.

Carol Gilmore:

Thanks Karrey for the opportunity to chat with your readers.


I forgot to introduce myself. I am Karrey Britt, health and environment reporter, and I will be moderating this chat. Now, here's the first question.


Is there a broad rule of thumb with managing salt in your diet? How can you best monitor it?

Carol Gilmore:

Monitoring your blood pressure and any physical signs such as edema or swelling in your hands and/or feet are good ways to evaluate if your dietary changes are working. Keeping to a overall meal plan that limits added salt, foods with significant amounts of sodium, and incorporates fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low or fat free dairy products will support heart health and benefit hypertension. Research shows that a diet which includes foods contributing potassium and magnesium from fruits, vegetables and whole grains along with calcium from dairy products or foods supplemented with calcium will also help reduce blood pressure along with limiting sodium from salt and foods. The recommended limit for sodium according to the Dietary Guidelines is 2300 mg sodium per day from all sources. One teaspoon of salt provides 2300mg sodium which is why we recommend decreasing or eliminating the use of added salt.


What are the worst processed foods in regards to salt intake? Soups, frozen dinners or something else entirely?

Carol Gilmore:

Regular soups, canned items such as chili, deli meats, foods processed with salt or in a brine, e.g. pickles, sauerkraut, cured meats, e.g. ham, hot dogs/bratwurst, pastrami, regular frozen dinners, pizza (according to the ingredients), processed cheese (American, Velveeta), cottage cheese, soy sauce and other regular sauces, seasoned salts (garlic salt, onion salt).

Manufacturers are making efforts to slowly reduce the amount of sodium in foods. Periodically check food items to see if the sodium has decreased. I have discovered that there are items out there that are low or lower in sodium and are not labeled as such so do some looking.


I noticed that you listed one of my favorite foods - pizza. I try to stick to veggie pizzas are they high in sodium?

Carol Gilmore:

Pizza is one of my favorites as well. It can be a significant source of sodium depending on the ingredients and the portion size. Unfortunately this is one item that is on an "occasional to eat" list. When you do have pizza, stick to thin crust and select toppings that are lower in sodium such as vegetables, pineapple, chicken (versus sausage, pepperoni and few olives and no anchovies).


What tips can you give for eating out? A lot of restaurants compensate the lack of food flavor with salt overload.

Carol Gilmore:

Restaurants are being more accommodating to requests for no added salt or lower fat preparation. Many fast food restaurants have nutritional analysis available on line or in the store. You can make a special request for no salt on the hamburger or French fries. Call ahead to a favorite restaurant and inquire if they accommodate requests to not use salt. You will need to pick items that could be prepared without salt or high sodium ingredients. Asian cooking is low sodium until you add the sauces. Good items to think about are grilled fish, chicken or steak (ask that no salted ingredients be added - lemon is great on all these items including the steak), baked potato, steamed rice (no flavored), steamed vegetables, salads with dressing on the side (dilute with lemon juice or vinegar).


Does salt intake effect type 2 diabetes? Does milk contain very much sodium.

Carol Gilmore:

Salt per se does not cause or worsen diabetes. However, heart disease is associated with diabetes so being attentive to salt and fat intake is important. Milk naturally contains about 125mg sodium per 8 ounce serving (chocolate is slightly higher). Buttermilk contains about 240mg per 8 ounces so this type of milk should not be consumed routinely.


my husband works long hours in a state prison that has no air conditioning... when he comes home his shirts are lined in sweat/salt. All he wants to eat is salty foods. I mean, he really pours the salt on. Besides having him drink Gatorade what else can we do to keep his salt/electrolytes on track?

Carol Gilmore:

Make sure your husband's physician is aware of his occupation and the working conditions so he can be monitored appropriately. Requirements for salt do increase when there is significant loss of body fluids due to sweating. Some individuals are more sensitive to salt intake than others so your husband should be monitoring his blood pressure along with his physician to make sure his response of eating more salty foods is on track with his needs.


How can I get motivated to cook healthy meals when it's so easy to eat pre-packaged food that is not necessarily healthful?

Carol Gilmore:

Cooking does not have to take a lot of time. Semi-homemade is a trend that incorporates some convenience items made at home. If you like cookbooks, check some out at your local bookstore. There are many that use few items and quick methods of preparation. If you have more time on the weekend, cook ahead so that you have some ingredients or leftovers for the weekdays. Cooking extra chicken or ground beef gives you the beginnings of new items on another day. Commercial tomato sauces (look for the lower sodium varieties) simplify cooking. Frozen vegetables added to no salt added canned tomatoes and reduced sodium broths make great soups (add your favorite seasonings, garlic, onion and a little wine if you like). Make extra, freeze and then add diced chicken, turkey or beef when you eat the next time.


I have one last question. Since it is Halloween, what's your advice for parents as they head out with their little ones to collect lots of candy?

Carol Gilmore:

Halloween is a fun time for kids and parents so let the kids enjoy some of their loot. This is a time to help them understand that candy is something to enjoy but, it needs to be incorporated sensibly into a healthy eating pattern. Eating small portions several times per week is much better than eating it all at once or over several consecutive days. Candy should not replace other more nutritious foods.


That's all of the time we have today. Thanks for coming in and sharing some tips on how we can lead a better and healthier life.

Carol Gilmore:

This has been fun. Good questions. Thanks for having me. Happy Halloween!


RogueThrill 9 years, 7 months ago

Salt, Sugar, Fat... also synonymous with taste. Eating is more than just a necessity. Eating for joy is a luxury of the first world and one that I am loathe to surrender. Perhaps I will die sooner than those who eat purely for utilitarian reasons, but I will also have died having brought myself my own particular joys.The day I am limited to a low sodium diet is the day I die a little inside.

Paul R Getto 9 years, 7 months ago

Mmmmmmmmmm.......salt, sugar, grease and white bread. The new four food groups. Fast Food Nation explains much of this. People need to make better choices, but it's hard, hard I tell ya!

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