Given the overwhelming evidence that high sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure, many authorities are redoubling their efforts to reduce America’s daily sodium intake, which currently averages 4,300 milligrams for men and 2,900 milligrams for women.1 In fact, the new Dietary Guidelines, issued in January 2005, decreased the recommended intake for children and adults younger than middle-aged to 2,300 milligrams (a slight drop). More importantly, for the first time, the responsible agencies issued a specific, lower recommendation of no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium for those with high blood pressure (hypertension), African-Americans, and adults who are middle-aged or older. African-Americans and middle-aged and older Americans may be more salt-sensitive and at higher risk for high blood pressure.2
Vegetarians may be lured by the convenience of packaged and processed foods and may find it challenging to embark on a low-sodium eating plan. Thus, we have designed a low-sodium menu for vegetarians with an average sodium content of 1,500 milligrams or less. Be advised that this menu plan is a guide to low-sodium eating and is intended to provide an idea of what a low-sodium diet can look like. It may not meet the nutritional needs of every reader. Adjustments for your tastes and preferences, as well as additions of condiments, beverages, etc., may change the sodium content listed.
If you are not vegan and wish to become one, this meal plan may support such a change. You can read the vegan nutrition section on The VRG website, www.vrg.org/nutrition/, and consult a registered dietitian or other qualified nutrition professional, if necessary.
Since food labels can change, label reading is still necessary. It is best not to presume that your favorite low-sodium food item has the same sodium content as it did a year ago.
Terms on labels follow rules established by the Federal Food and Drug Administration:
“Sodium-free” foods contain less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving.
“Very low sodium” foods contain up to 35 milligrams per serving.
“Low sodium” foods contain no more than 140 milligrams per serving or per 50 grams of the food.
“Reduced” means that a nutritionally altered product contains at least 25 percent less of a nutrient or of calories than the regular, or reference, product. However, a reduced claim can't be made on a product if its reference food already meets the requirement for a “low” claim.
Although cooking dried beans will provide less sodium at less cost, canned beans offer convenience. If you buy canned beans, we recommend buying low-sodium varieties, such as those from Westbrae, Eden, ShariAnn’s, or Whole Foods’ “365” brand, all of which contain no more than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving. Rinsing well is also recommended to remove a significant portion of the salt (as well as the compounds that cause flatulence). The exact amount of sodium remaining may be hard to determine; therefore, we analyzed the sodium content of each meal based on the nutrition label (unrinsed). If you want to use cooked dried beans instead of canned, assume each reference to a can of beans is equivalent to about 1-2/3 to 1-3/4 cups of cooked beans. Be sure to drain both canned or dried beans.
The sodium content in each recipe using plain beans is based on an assumption of 140 milligrams of sodium per serving, the highest content in any of the brands of canned beans listed. Using a brand with less sodium (or cooked dried beans) can only reduce the already low sodium content shown. The refried bean recipes use Eden’s chili beans (not technically refried), although ShariAnn’s also offers refried beans.
The approximate sodium content for each meal is listed in milligrams. Total sodium content for each day is listed to the right, and the average of all seven days is at the bottom of the column. Additionally, average sodium contents for the week’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner are specified at the bottom. Average sodium content in the snacks is not listed but is reflected in the average of all totals for all seven days. Other points to note:
Special thanks to those individuals who provided their own unique tips on low-sodium eating.
1 cup whole grain cereal for cooking, such as oatmeal or Mother’s Four Grain cereal
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries, or diced apple
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for approximately 1-3 minutes. Cook until the cereal is fully cooked and the fruit is tender and hot.
|Total calories per serving: 311||Fat: 2 grams|
|Carbohydrates: 75 grams||Protein: 6 grams|
|Sodium: 10 milligrams||Fiber: 8 grams|
One 15-ounce can Eden’s chili beans, drained
1/2 cup salsa of your choice
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 cups vegetables of your choice (such as onions, carrots, mushrooms, corn, eggplant, peppers, broccoli, etc.), chopped as needed
9 regular-sized taco shells
Hot sauce or additional salsa (optional)
Pour beans into a sauté pan and mash well. Cook over low heat. Add salsa, and continue to cook until the mixture reaches the thickness of refried beans. Set aside.
In another sauté pan, heat the oil and sauté vegetables until medium tender.
Fill the taco shells with the beans and top with the vegetables. Add hot sauce or additional salsa, if desired.
|Total calories per serving: 471||Fat: 14 grams|
|Carbohydrates: 59 grams||Protein: 15 grams|
|Sodium: 635 milligrams||Fiber: 5 grams|
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup oil
1 cup soymilk
1/3 cup molasses or maple syrup
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine cornmeal, flour, and baking powder. In a separate bowl, combine oil, soymilk, and molasses and add to the cornmeal mixture, blending just enough to moisten. Pour batter into lightly oiled 8" round pan. Bake for 20 minutes.
|Total calories per serving: 289||Fat: 11 grams|
|Carbohydrates: 45 grams||Protein: 6 grams|
|Sodium: 260 milligrams||Fiber: 5 grams|
Note: Sodium may be reduced by around 250 mg per serving by using low-sodium baking powder.
From Simply Vegan, by Debra Wasserman, published by VRG, 1999.
6 large green bell peppers, tops and seeds removed
2 teaspoons light olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
One 14-ounce package vegan ground meat, such as Lightlife GimmeLean sausage
3 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 cups cooked barley
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Submerge peppers in water and boil for 10 minutes. Carefully remove peppers and drain.
In a large frying pan, heat oil and sauté onions and vegan sausage, breaking up meat completely. Add tomatoes and barley and stir mixture 1 minute longer or until heated through. Stuff peppers with mixture and serve immediately.
|Total calories per serving: 249||Fat: 3 grams|
|Carbohydrates: 44 grams||Protein: 15 grams|
|Sodium: 392 milligrams||Fiber: 10 grams|
1 sweet potato
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
Your choice of low-sodium seasonings (Cajun, Italian, Mrs. Dash, etc.) to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub and peel the potato. Slice about 1/4-inch thick. In a small bowl, combine oil and seasonings. Brush both sides of each slice with oil mixture, then bake 20-30 minutes or until brown.
|Total calories per serving: 249||Fat: 14 grams|
|Carbohydrates: 33 grams||Protein: 2 grams|
|Sodium: 20 milligrams||Fiber: 4 grams|
1 Tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onions
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
One 1-pound can chopped tomatoes, no salt added
One 1-pound can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots or dried plums
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1-1/2 cups chopped collard greens
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Heat oil in a saucepan or skillet and add onions and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, for approximately 5 minutes or until tender. Add small amounts of water to prevent sticking, if necessary. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Longer cooking will improve the flavor. Serve over couscous or rice.
|Total calories per serving: 282||Fat: 5 grams|
|Carbohydrates: 53 grams||Protein: 8 grams|
|Sodium: 390 milligrams||Fiber: 9 grams|
(Makes 6 servings)
This recipe is adapted from “Bean Bag: A Primer of Easy Bean Recipes” by Mary Clifford, RD, published in the November 1994 issue of Vegetarian Journal.
4 cups (approximately two-and-a-half 15-ounce cans) cooked pinto beans
2 Tablespoons dried minced onion
3 Tablespoons relish
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Pepper to taste
Drain pinto beans. Using a food processor, a blender, or a potato masher and a large bowl, combine all ingredients until smooth.
|Total calories per serving: 180||Fat: 1 gram|
|Carbohydrates: 33 grams||Protein: 10 grams|
|Sodium: 103 milligrams||Fiber: 10 grams|
1 pound firm tofu
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil, if desired
1-1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1 Tablespoon prepared mustard
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar (preferred) or plain vinegar
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1 Tablespoon liquid sweetener
1 Tablespoon nonhydrogenated vegan margarine
Four 1/2-inch-thick pineapple slices
1 Tablespoon packed brown sugar (Use your favorite vegan variety.)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Freeze tofu completely, then thaw in the refrigerator. When thawed, squeeze water out as much as possible by placing the tofu on plate and stacking several plates on top of the tofu. Slice tofu so that it is approximately 1/4-inch thick. Pour the oil into a skillet and pan-grill tofu slices in a non-stick pan until brown on both sides.
Combine grated ginger, mustard, vinegar, and pineapple juice in a baking dish. Add the tofu and marinate for at least 30 minutes, spooning marinade over tofu occasionally. Remove tofu, reserving marinade.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In small saucepan, reduce reserved marinade to approximately 1/2 cup. Stir in liquid sweetener and pour over tofu. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the margarine in a skillet. Add pineapple slices and sauté over low heat for 5 minutes. Combine sugar and ginger and sprinkle over pineapple. Heat just until sugar melts. Serve with tofu.
|Total calories per serving: 192||Fat: 8 grams|
|Carbohydrates: 23 grams||Protein: 10 grams|
|Sodium: 119 milligrams||Fiber: 1 gram|
(Makes eight 1-cup servings)
Adapted from “Using the Ol’ Bean” by Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD, published in the Jan/Feb 2001 issue of Vegetarian Journal.
1/2 cup dried white beans
3 cups peeled and cubed eggplant
Salt to lightly coat eggplant
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 pound onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Two 15-ounce cans Muir Glen low-sodium diced tomatoes, with juice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 ounces orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 pound barley, cooked and drained
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
Soak dried beans in water to cover until they have doubled in size, at least 3 hours. Drain and place in a medium-sized saucepan. Cover with fresh water and cook until tender, approximately 40 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Place eggplant in a colander, sprinkle with salt, and allow to drain for 20 minutes. Rinse eggplant and squeeze out excess water.
Heat oil in a large frying pan. Add onions and garlic and sauté until soft, approximately 5 minutes. Add eggplant, stirring, and cook for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, lemon juice, and orange juice concentrate. Cover and simmer until eggplant is tender, about 20 minutes. Add cooked beans and barley and stir to combine. Season with pepper.
|Total calories per serving: 347||Fat: 5 grams|
|Carbohydrates: 67 grams||Protein: 12 grams|
|Sodium: 180 milligrams||Fiber: 16 grams|
1 medium onion
1/4 teaspoon McCormick’s Season-All
2 Tablespoons olive oil
One 15-ounce can low-sodium beans (see article), rinsed and drained
One 15-ounce can Muir Glen low-sodium stewed tomatoes, any flavor, such as basil and garlic
2 cups fresh collard greens, cleaned, stems removed, and diced
1-1/2 cups diced vegetables of your choice (such as fresh mushrooms, bell peppers, carrots, peas, zucchini, corn, etc.)
1/2 cup water
1 Tablespoon hot sauce (optional)
2 Tablespoons molasses (optional)
In a large saucepan, sauté onions and Season-All in olive oil. When onions are soft, add remaining ingredients, except hot sauce and molasses. Simmer 20 minutes or until collard greens are fully cooked and sauce has thickened. Finish with hot sauce and molasses. Serve over whole grains, such as whole wheat pasta, brown rice, barley, or quinoa.
|Total calories per serving: 290||Fat: 9 grams|
|Carbohydrates: 38 grams||Protein: 14 grams|
|Sodium: 660 milligrams||Fiber: 12 grams|
Adapted from Conveniently Vegan, by Debra Wasserman, 1999, published by VRG.
One 15-ounce can low-sodium black beans, drained
One 15-ounce can Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes with chilies
10 ounces frozen corn
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups soymilk or other non-dairy milk
4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Pepper to taste
Combine ingredients in a large pot and simmer over medium heat for 25 minutes.
|Total calories per serving: 142||Fat: 3 grams|
|Carbohydrates: 22 grams||Protein: 9 grams|
|Sodium: 130 milligrams||Fiber: 6 grams|
(Makes 18 muffins)
1-1/2 cups cornmeal
1-1/2 cups unbleached white flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon basil
1-1/2 pounds zucchini or yellow squash, grated
10 ounces frozen corn, partially thawed
1/2 cup molasses or other vegan liquid sweetener
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Pour into 18 lightly oiled muffin cups. Bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool before removing from muffin tins.
|Total calories per muffin: 119||Fat: <1 gram|
|Carbohydrates: 26 grams||Protein: 3 grams|
|Sodium: 254 milligrams||Fiber: 2 grams|
From Conveniently Vegan, by Debra Wasserman, 1999, published by VRG.
(Makes approximately twenty-eight 2" x 2" servings)
3-1/3 cups unbleached flour
2 cups sugar (Use your favorite vegan variety.)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
2/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a mixing bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt with fork, breaking up the lumps. Mix in the remaining ingredients.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour mixture into a 9" x 13" pan. Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
|Total calories per serving: 145||Fat: 5 grams|
|Carbohydrates: 24 grams||Protein: 1 gram|
|Sodium: 172 milligrams||Fiber: <1 gram|
One 15-ounce can low-sodium chickpeas or 1˝-2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
2 Tablespoons lemon or lime juice
Onion powder, onion flakes, garlic powder, or oregano to taste
Relish or finely diced vegetables of your choice (such as carrots, red peppers, celery, or onions)
Mash chickpeas well. Add lemon juice, spices, and vegetables to taste. Serve on a sandwich or as a dip.
|Total calories per serving: 137||Fat: 2 grams|
|Carbohydrates: 23 grams||Protein: 7 grams|
|Sodium: 150 milligrams||Fiber: 6 grams|
Adapted from “Healthy Asian Cuisine” by Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD, CCE, published in the Issue 4, 2004, issue of Vegetarian Journal.
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chilies
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar or plain vinegar
1/3 cup water
Place oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Add garlic, ginger, and chilies and cook, tossing, for 1 minute. Add vinegar and water. Stir and cook for another minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
1 cup dry whole grain pasta
1/2 cup fresh or frozen green beans
1-1/4 cups broccoli florets
1/2 cup fresh or frozen and thawed snow pea pods
3/4 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.
Trim green beans and cut into 4-inch pieces. Steam broccoli and green beans until just tender. Remove from heat and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.
Combine all salad ingredients and refrigerate. When ready to serve, toss salad with dressing.
|Total calories per serving: 140||Fat: 7 grams|
|Carbohydrates: 17 grams||Protein: 4 grams|
|Sodium: 16 milligrams||Fiber: 3 grams|
1 pound firm tofu
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 chopped scallion
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon sugar (Use your favorite vegan variety.)
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup peanut butter (no salt added)
1/2 cup water
To Add To Tofu
3 cups collard greens, cleaned, stems removed, and diced
4 cups cooked brown rice
Drain tofu and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Pan-fry (oil optional) for approximately 6-8 minutes on each side until both are brown.
Heat oil in a small saucepan over very low heat, add scallions and garlic, and sauté until slightly brown. Add remaining sauce ingredients and heat until mixture is smooth, stirring constantly. If needed, add more water to make medium-thick consistency.
Steam collard greens until tender. Combine with tofu, peanut sauce, and brown rice.
|Total calories per serving: 525||Fat: 24 grams|
|Carbohydrates: 59 grams||Protein: 22 grams|
|Sodium: 367 milligrams||Fiber: 7 grams|
Mark Rifkin recently completed a Master’s in Health Education and his dietetic internship. He plans to be a dietitian in private practice focusing on plant-based diets.
The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone who wishes to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.
Thanks to volunteer Stephanie Schueler for converting this article to HTML.
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