Most people are surprised when I tell them I have high blood pressure. I don’t fit the typical mold of overweight or middle-aged so I quickly explain, I was born with heart problems, one of those problems was fixed as a newborn but the other one I still have. Because of my heart problems, I was told that I would get high blood pressure, it was just a matter of time. That time for me was at age 15. I’ll be honest with you, I never really have taken it seriously. I devoured salty things like I was a healthy person because my little magic pink pill kept my blood pressure normal even with my atrocious diet.
That changed when I became pregnant. I didn’t just have me to think about but I was nauseous so the doctors said as long as my blood pressure was fine, eat what you can handle during the first trimester don’t worry about your blood pressure. Well, that changed pretty much once I hit my second trimester. My blood pressure, started to climb just a little bit. Not enough to be classified as high BUT it was higher than my normal range so 4 weeks ago, my doctor recommended a low-sodium diet(along with extra magnesium and calcium) to see if that would keep it from rising without upping my medication.
Changing my diet has been hard. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, since I gave up all wheat, rye and barley thanks to Celiac Disease but it is seriously the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I am trying to keep my thinking away from “this is the hardest thing ever and I just want a huge plate of nachos to dive into.” Instead, I am trying to reaffirm to myself EVERYDAY, sometimes every 15 minutes on a particularly bad day that this is the best thing for Baby Murray. Healthy mom, means healthy baby.
How much sodium should I be consuming?
Most people eat WAY too much sodium. According to the Dietitians of Canada you shouldn’t be eating more than 1500mg but my doctor recommended 1200mg for myself.
So with that, I am going to outline some of the steps I’ve taken to ease myself into the low-sodium lifestyle. Please remember, I am not a nurse, dietitian, doctor or any sort of health professional. What works for me, may not work for you!
1. Read nutritional labels. Become an expert.
This seems obvious for someone who already has to read the ingredient list because of being gluten-free but I never let me eye wander towards the nutritional information because I never wanted to be ruled by calories or dieting. It’s seriously eye-opening!
2. Throw out all the high sodium foods in your house.
Have a funeral for all those chips, bread, pasta, cookies(yup…they most likely have to go too! or anything with more than roughly 140mg of sodium per serving needs to go.
3. Stock up on low sodium treats, condiments and spices.
I never want to feel deprived, especially since I’m pregnant. Instead of throwing out EVERYTHING I put spice blends up high away from sight and my most loved condiments far back in the fridge and put the Mrs. Dash spice blends at my eye level in the cupboard and the low sodium condiments up front.
4. Find new recipes or swap out the high-sodium foods in your most-loved recipes.
My husband almost always makes a roast chicken on Sunday night that we eat throughout the week for lunch. Before the low-sodium diet we used a Tex-Mex spice blend that has 90mg of sodium per tablespoon! Luckily, Mrs. Dash has Mrs. Dash Extra Spicy Seasoning with 0mg of sodium, that really tastes amazing! Swapping out spice blends for fresh herbs like cilantro or basil or fresh ingredients such as lemons and limes, also makes for great tasting food without missing the salt.
5. Put away the salt shaker. Don’t salt your food, EVER!
It’s about the only thing I stopped doing when I got the diagnosis of high blood pressure, 16 years ago. It should be obvious, but just in case. Don’t use salt.
6. Cut out the processed food.
This is the hardest part for me. I’ve cut out most processed food except for a few treats that are still low-sodium so they are okay. You even need to be careful with canned beans, sauces or soups.
I’ll admit, it was daunting at first BUT the most positive thing that has come from this is that I’m actually cooking more AND eating more variety of foods AND I’ve discovered some really tasty snacks.
If you find yourself having to change your lifestyle, whether it’s to a low-sodium lifestyle or not the first thing you need to change is your attitude. First the attitude, then the kitchen!
So tell me, have you ever had to change your lifestyle? How did you make the change? Could you give up salt?