For many people—food service operators and customers alike—sodium has become a concern.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, excessive sodium intake is a major cause of high blood pressure and causes more deaths than any other single dietary factor. And because restaurant foods are a major source of sodium in the American diet, they’re right to be concerned.
However, Technomic’s Healthy Eating Consumer Trends Report tells us that 47% of consumers surveyed equated a low-sodium claim with a food being less tasty.
Clearly, it’s a balancing act. But there are a number of tactics that food service operators can use to reduce sodium in menu items while still offering food that’s tasty and appealing, says Laurence Vernerey, MS, Nutrition, Health & Wellness Manager for Nestlé Professional North America.
Consider the following tips:
- Take it One Step at a Time—When reducing salt in an existing recipe, do it gradually, step by step.
- Guests will hardly perceive a reduction of 5% to 10%
- A step-by-step reduction will ensure that frequent customers will not be shocked by the difference
- Use the Right Ingredients—Using fresh, flavorful ingredients, instead of salt, can boost flavor, including:
- Fresh seasonal herbs (these will also have a positive effect on the appearance and quality of the dish)
- Umami ingredients, which naturally boost the overall flavor, such as mushrooms, cooked tomatoes, or even tomato concentrate
- Redistribute Salt—Use salt where it has the most impact in taste.
- For example in a pasta dish, remove salt from the cooking water of the pasta, and add it into the sauce. You can get the same saltiness perception using less salt in total
- In pizza, putting the salt outside (and not inside) the dough will increase the salt perception, because this is the first taste that the tongue perceives when biting into the pizza
- Source and Purchase Carefully—Prepared foods can be high in sodium.
- When possible, use fresh poultry, fish, pork, and lean meat, rather than canned or processed meats
- When available, buy low-sodium, lower-sodium, reduced-sodium, or no-salt-added versions of products
- Compare Nutrition Facts labels on food packages for percent Daily Value or amount of sodium in milligrams
- Check to see if saline or salt solution have been used
- Provide Information for Customers—Transparency is important when dealing with today’s health-conscious consumers.
- Consider providing or posting nutritional information about menus, online or at the point of sale
- Also provide this information to servers, so that they can answer questions
- Be willing to omit or reduce salt upon request in a cooked-to-order menu item if possible
- Be willing to provide items such as sauces and dressings, which can contain extra sodium, on the side
- Let the Guest Add the Salt—Many customers are accustomed to adding salt to their food.
- It’s better to undersalt, leaving some margin so that each guest can choose how or if they will further season the food, rather than prepare something that’s oversalted