Cutting the Salt

From purchasing to service, operators share tips to reduce sodium.

At Colorado Springs School District 11, low-sodium bases
work well for dishes like Orange Chicken with Rice Pilaf.

Salt is an essential flavor component, but stricter dietary guidelines and growing awareness around healthy eating means many diners want to eat less of it. Happily, non-commercial operators are meeting the demand with a variety of strategies.

Since packaged foods are a major source of dietary sodium, choosing lower-sodium versions of ingredients like meats, cheeses and flavoring agents can translate to significantly less sodium. At Colorado Springs School District 11, Executive Chef Brian Axworthy purchases low-sodium beef and chicken bases for dishes like Orange Chicken with Rice Pilaf. He also relies on fresh herbs and spices for flavors rather than premade blends for dishes like Pulled Pork BBQ Sliders.

Choosing more all-natural meat products helps, too. At Heatherwood Retirement Community in Honeybrook, Pa., Director of Dietary Services Chris Darmastaetter uses bone-in, shankless ham that hasn’t been injected with water or sodium. It’s a similar story for Kettering Medical Center in Ohio. “Natural meats aren’t subjected to sodium solutions, which can lower overall sodium counts by as much as 300%,” says Network Director of Nutrition Services Cheryl Shimmin.

Opting for fresh or frozen ingredients instead of canned versions can cut sodium levels even more, says Tim Gump, executive chef at Illinois State University, in Normal. He’s also started relying more on salt-smart fats like oil instead of butter or margarine in dishes like Toasted Barley with Fresh Vegetables.

Cooking foods from scratch rather than relying on premade items is another salt-reducing tactic that non-commercial operators employ. Once they’ve committed to cooking from scratch, though, operators rely on additional techniques to push sodium counts even lower. Axworthy opts for cooking methods that naturally enhance a dish’s flavor, such as braising or slow roasting.

At Illinois State, Gump adds water to soy sauce in Asian concept dishes like General Tso’s Chicken. “It reduces the sodium by a third, which is the equivalent of using low-sodium soy sauce,” he says. For pasta dishes, like Cavatappi Pasta with Marinara and Cajun Pasta Fresca, Gump skips salting the pasta water, too.

Another technique: Switching from iodized to kosher salt. This has yielded a 60% net sodium reduction in the dishes at Illinois State while yielding a cleaner, more neutral taste, Gump adds.

For some populations, leaving out the salt completely also can work. “Since our assisted living residents are older they’re more sensitive to salty flavors,” says Heatherwood’s Darmastaetter. “They give more positive feedback when we omit the salt from our recipes.”  

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Italian food hall chain Eataly is making plans for a 2018 initial public offering in its home country, according to a report this week in Financial Times.

The company plans to list shares on the Italian stock exchange in Milan “as early as next year,” Eataly Executive Chairman Andrea Guerra told Financial Times .

Eataly is eager to expand the presence of its massive Italian food emporiums in the U.S., which have helped spur the growing food hall trend . The company has five locations here, with two in New York City and one each in Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston. Financial...

Industry News & Opinion

Students staffing the foodservice department at Rutgers University will soon get an hourly pay bump, as the New Brunswick, N.J., university is raising its wage for student workers to $11 an hour, philly.com reports.

The increase will go in effect Jan. 1 and will impact 13,000 students.

The fight to raise wages at the school was spearheaded by student group United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), which is continuing to push the university to increase student wages to $15.

The fight for a $15 wage for student workers has spread at schools throughout the country,...

Industry News & Opinion

After shutting down 265 schools due to ongoing wildfires, the Los Angeles Unified School District kept three schools open on Friday and Saturday to provide meals for students and their families, the Los Angeles Times reports.

At one of the schools, employees and volunteers handed out around 100 meals on Friday and 270 meals on Saturday. The meals included items such as dragonfruit punch, raisins, bananas, sunflower kernels, whole-grain cinnamon graham crackers, sunflower seed butter and fat-free chocolate milk.

Around 80% of students in the district come from low-income...

Sponsored Content
Breakfast chili

From Bush’s Best®.

While decadent plates of French toast and pancakes stacked high will always be breakfast favorites, it’s undeniable that savory breakfast items are on the rise in many foodservice operations. Menu items such as avocado toast and omelets aren’t new, of course, but consumers’ preferences for better-for-you food choices, along with their desire for global flavors, are driving this trend.

According to a recent Technomic Breakfast report, consumer demand for vegetarian ingredients has led to an increase of ingredients like soy, tofu, beans, lentils, seeds,...

FSD Resources