What To Do When You Get A Health Scare

April 10, 2014   22 Comments

Snack Girl hopes that you never have to sit with a doctor and discuss a life threatening health issue.

Got a Health Issue?

In my book, I talk about how my doctor brought up my weight in a routine check-up and I faced the realization that I needed to do something. This was not nearly as frightening as a heart attack, a pre-diabetes diagnosis, or lump in my breast.

I receive e-mails like the following one from Jocelyn all the time and I do my best to answer them. Snack Girl was started to be a resource for people making the shift to healthier eating so I like to try to help BUT I am not a medical professional (always take the advice of your medical professional).

From Jocelyn:

Can you help me?

My husband has been put on a diet restriction of daily having a maximum of 1800 mg of salt and drinking only 2 liter (or 66 oz) of fluids (i.e. water, coffee, tea, any juices or drink mixes {that are sodium and sugar free}; no diet drinks).

I am supposed to be on a very low fat diet; I have belonged to Weight Watchers for two years - but have only managed to lose 20 lbs. in this time frame.

Before his medical scare of three weeks ago he would cook and eat more bad foods than good and I joined him; however, the last two weeks we have been looking at labels and for recipes that have minimal amounts of salt.....we both love fresh and frozen veggies and fruits; we are meat and seafood eaters; we both love to snack on crunchy salty foods and desserts (I buy him sugar free goodies and make Jello sugar free desserts).

He LOVES bread and butter; mashed potatoes; bacon; to name a few. Anyway, I am humbly asking you for places to find recipes and buy foods that will benefit his and my health.

I am, humbly, going to try to answer and hope that my readers will come up with some good ideas of their own.

First of all, if you have access to a Registered Dietician – use it. These professionals are the BEST at helping you retool your diet. They will help you evaluate where you are going wrong and provide tools to help you improve. I highly recommend getting an RD involved when you have a scare such as this.

You are going to have to cook your food (instead of take-out) and not use a lot of salt. This means using low sodium or no sodium forms of flavoring agents to create good taste. What is amazing, is that as you reduce your level of salt in your food, you will want less and start to taste the flavors of the vegetables, meat, etc. and enjoy them more.

Here are some low sodium flavor options:

  1. Tabasco
  2. Mustard
  3. Balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar (any kind of vinegar)
  4. Fresh herbs (basil, thyme, rosemary, etc.)
  5. Lemon juice

Sodium Girl has a book out that has a bunch of great recipe ideas for cutting sodium. Ellie Krieger is a registered dietician who does an amazing job of making stuff like mashed potatoes tasty and healthy.

Of course, Snack Girl to The Rescue! has a low sodium, low calorie mashed potatoes recipe (hint: I sneak in cauliflower) that rocks.

Two of my favorite magazines (that you can even check out at the library) are Cooking Light and Eating Well. Both magazines post great recipes and the nutritional values so you can see which recipes are low sodium.

I realize that my answer is not enough to solve your problem - but I hope it helps. It may take a while to make all the changes necessary to avoid another scare. Remember, becoming healthier is a process (not a race).

Please share your advice with Jocelyn.

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First 20 Comments: ( See all 22 )

I concur with Snack Girl, Jocelyn. A knowledgeable dietitian should be able to review the foods your hubby enjoys and show you both how to prepare them with lower sodium options, including some of the flavors that SG has listed (don't forget garlic!). If fresh herbs aren't available, most stores nowadays carry no-salt seasoning blends. Two important points: 1) get educated about the sodium content of everything you eat - it can be eye opening! - and know that your/his taste buds will adjust to flavors with less sodium, and 2) celebrate your 20 lbs lost, regardless how long it took or how much more you may want to lose!!!

I use many of the Mrs. Dash spice blends--they are very tasty! WW cookbooks often give nutrition information, including sodium, and some of my favorite recipes are WW!! Good luck with your search for new foods and recipes. You will find many options and your taste buds will adjust to the lower sodium.

Jocelyn, Congratulations mainlining a 20 lb weight loss for two years......most of us know HOW to loose but KEEPING it off is the challenge. I too agree that a RD is the first step,if you want to loose more weight you might discuss this w/your WW leader and learn how to shake things up and finally perhaps your exercise routine needs some attention as well. Perhaps the Nurse at your Physicians office will help you keep track of all of this.

Best of luck

congrats on your 20 lb. weight loss! keeping the weight OFF is as critical as the journey while

making changes in food choices & healthy lifestyles.

during my weight loss travels, I've learned to constantly. read. labels. everytime. it's crucial. mustards (many) have a HUGE sodium content. avoid them. as does tabasco. use fresh herbs (and dried) for flavor enhancing. check cookbooks/websites for salt free ideas. there are many yummy recipes out there that avoid salt

and/or have terrific subs for salt. we had to go thru a life changing way of food prep when a close family member had heart issues and it was crucial that our foods became 100% salt free. what?! no salt on easter eggs? no salt on corn on the cob? no salt on green salads, mashed potatoes with get the idea! salt is a horrible additive which compromises health. your taste buds will revolt, will say no no no,

but trust me: been there, done that, all in the name of love and better health. ALL foods we now eat taste FANTASTIC WITHOUT SALT! you can do it; it doesn't happen overnite, as you'll find out that the brain is programmed to crave salt, sugar, and fats which you've been eating. give it a shot. your body (and you) will really feel a positive change by doing so! best of luck :)

All of the suggestions that have already been mentioned are great! If you can handle spicy food I love adding chopped hot peppers to meat & vegetable based dishes for flavor without adding salt. I never add salt to anything I make or in addition to prepared foods.

As for your weight issue if you think you are losing weight too slowly despite diet & exercise,it may be a good idea to get your thyroid checked out. I know that it may be a cliche excuse,but it really is something to take into consideration. Focus on being healthy instead of discouraged because you think that you aren't losing enough weight fast enough. Everyone's metabolism isn't the same and unfortunately it just slows down as we get older.

Hi Jocelyn,

Congratulations for your weight loss. I am also overweight and have struggled since my first pregnancy (twins) to lose....I began walking a few years ago & have upped it by walking faster (an ipod is a MUST) and just watching portion control. My dr gave me the great news that all my levels were great. HE checks them frequently. I am now a member of a gym and feel so much better in myself, despite not losing and looking like a stick. You are blessed in a way that your husband is on board with you.. Mine needs to be, but is in denial...

Hope this helps a little.....God Bless

I have found that the web is a fantstic source for information about healthy food - google something like Top Healthy Food (or Eating or Diet) Blogs and you will be amazed at what you find. Beth's Journey and Slender Kitchen are two of my favorites but there are many, many more. Also, a fair number of Snack-Girl comments come from food bloggers, just click on their website link. Good luck, and congrats on the 20 pound loss. That is awesome!

I also agree with others here that you should be proud of your weight loss. It's amazing how taste buds can change so don't be disheartened! After awhile your cravings will change. I find that focusing on nutrient dense foods, especially vegetables and legumes helps me a lot. The flavor is pretty easy to ramp up with herbs and salt free seasonings. I've created both main dish salads and bowls with veggies that I'd never thought of using that way. There are plenty of resources out there like Eat To Live, Engine Two, healthy eating blogs etc. I take things from them that work for me and try not to get overwhelmed by all of it! Good luck with your changes.

While 20 pounds may not be what your target weight loss was and you don't think it's "a lot," take a look at 20 pounds of meat at the grocery store. You will see that was a substantial amount of weight to lose and keep off! I also recommend Clean Eating Magazine as a source for healthy low sodium recipes. We use it regularly and almost never have to cut the sodium in their recipes because they keep it very low and use other seasonings in place. All their recipes are very tasty and they have have a two week menu in the back complete with shopping lists for people trying to lose weight. Additionally, they tell you how much they think some of their dishes cost to make. They have something for everyone and some of their recipes are online at Good luck with your new way of eating. Once you have done it for a couple of weeks you will feel better and love it!

I have been saying for years that the diabetic diet is the best and I still believe this. Sometimes being overweight is a SYMPTOM of diabetes or pre diabetes not the cause. I have managed to cut out most carbs in our diets, add certain supplements including those that curb my appetite for carbs, and eating more very small meals throughout the day.

Look to the ADA (American Diabetes Association) website for great recipes and tips on healthier eating. Subscribe to Diabetic newsletters that also have good tips and recipes.

There are many triggers for diabetes but exercise and a healthy diet certainly help all of us.

Check with your doctor on medications because there are some that trigger diabetes like corticosteroids.

Once one changes their eating habits, all the "Bad" foods no longer taste good. I have made it my occupation to put healthy cooking first, before the internet, TV or any other distraction. I like my self so much better for doing the right thing.

Diabetes is a deadly disease that affects 75 million Americans. Adult onset diabetes (Type 2) does not always occur to elderly adults. It is an auto-immune disease. Type 1 can occur in children and adults and is even harder to control.

Bragg Liquid Aminos is another amazing seasoning that replaces soy sauce, but it is made from vegetable protein from soybeans and purified water. It tastes great and has 160 mg of sodium for half a teaspoon.we

Funny you should mention health scares. Was recently diagnosed with CKD (chronic kidney disease) and have an appt. with a dietician on Monday. I would recommend anyone over 50 to ask their doctor to test your GFR (globular filtration rate). CKD is a "silent killer" and most people do not know their kidneys are failing until they are ready for dialysis or a transplant! Use of Nsaids (Aleve, Advil, Motrin) diabetes and high blood pressure are common causes. I was tested randomly which resulted in a kidney biopsy as no obvious causes were found with other tests.

Seems anything that is a "silent killer" should be on everyone's radar esp. since it is a simple blood test yet doctors rarely mention your kidneys and there are no warnings on the Nsaid bottles albeit in small print! At any rate, watching sodium, potassium, phosphorus etc. are on my agenda. Appreciate your blog today and suggestions made to the writer which I can also use.

Thank you, Snack Girl, for promoting registered dietitians (RDs) as the best source of reliable nutrition information. Many healthy insurance plans cover this benefit. Check with your local hospital, insurance plan, or for an RD to assist you.

My adult granddaughter recently turned me on to My Fitness Pal. It is free and has great tracking tools. You can set up your food diary to show your intake of various nutrients (four at a time in the food settings option) and can reset it whenever you want. As you track your daily food intake, MFP shows nutrients in your chosen item and shows you how many grams or calories of each are left to you for the rest of the day. I've changed my food choices because what I thought I wanted was too high in something. It is really helping me in cutting down my sodium intake.

You can also track various types of fats, carbs, protein, sugars, iron, calcium, potassium, vitamins C and A - but only 4 of these at a time. If you can add more, I have not figured out how.

As you know from your WW experience, portion control is a great tool. Perhaps you and your husband can have tiny portions of those foods you really crave?

I too have found that Mrs. Dash is a great seasoning to use to cute the salt. They have so many different flavors.

Hang in there and stay committed to eating healthier. I find that the key to healthy eating is to find alternatives. Skim vs whole milk for example. Over the years I have used this method with great success. Start out by mixing 1/3 healthy alternative to unhealthy food. Gradually blend in more each time and with time, your taste buds won't know the difference. As for the salt... try some of Mrs Dash and mix as described above. Before you know won't want salt because it tastes bad. Best wishes for you both.

As someone else mentioned mustard and tobascco are actually not low sodium, especially when you use more than a recommended serving.

Go for dry mustard and cayenne pepper. I have to watch my sodium too. I seem to put onion powder & garlic powder on everything that I liked a lot of salt on (potatoes). I also use more herbs and peppers. On most things I don't miss salt, but now and then I miss soy sauce and fish sauce! Everyone is right -- after cutting back, when I do allow myself an indulgence, a tiny bit goes a LONG way!

I love using herbs with lemon juice when I cook. Great post thanks!

I find that when I do use salt, unrefined sea salt goes much further and includes minerals that are taken out of the white stuff in a round box.

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