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How to spice up low-sodium dishes

low sodium menu item restaurant tomato soup

Sodium is officially on the chopping block: The New York City Board of Health recently approved a salt-labeling regulation requiring chains with 15 or more locations to identify items that exceeded the recommended daily salt limit (2,300 milligrams). Now more than ever, restaurateurs need to find ways to add flavor without salt to satisfy consumers and regulations alike.

Fortunately, developing low-sodium menus can be done with items already on hand. According to the National Restaurant Association, operators can easily substitute high-salt ingredients with fresh produce. Adding fruits and vegetables to prepared foods such as low-sodium soups can reduce a dish’s salt content without sacrificing flavor.

Other tips include substituting salt with flavorful herbs and spices, serving smaller portions of high-sodium items and playing with bitter, acidic or sweet flavors to give prepared foods a kick. This fast-scratch prep method not only allows for more control over a dish’s nutritional profile, but cross-utilizing different ingredients also reduces food costs and labor.

And operators shouldn’t fear a customer backlash: According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the average consumer can’t detect a change in sodium levels smaller than 25 percent. This inability to taste drastic sodium reductions gives operators leeway to employ the “stealth health” approach to incorporating lower-sodium items.

Earlier this year, for example, Taco Bell successfully used this tactic to quietly reduce sodium by an average of 15 percent.  Chicago-based research firm Technomic predicts this method of silent sodium reduction will trend into next year. 

This post is sponsored by Campbell’s® Foodservice

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