The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke
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Ch-Ch-Changes II-New Diet

First Image
In the blog entry CH-CH-CHANGES I I told the story of why the site was not receiving regular updates for a period of 5 months. In the middle of that I had a rather serious health scare that will forever change my diet and my lifestyle. It will change the focus of this website a little bit, but my goal is to keep the changes as minimal as possible. I am NOT going to get into the gritty details of what happened, nor am I going to get preachy about my new modified life style. I hate reading that kind of thing from others who have suddenly found a cause to champion and just keep beating you over the head with it. This site will continue to be about grilling and smoking with some modifications to the items I make and the ingredients I make them with.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Low Sodium Diet:
I had a medical problem requiring a couple hospital stays. I am better now, but the long term cure is a low sodium diet for the rest of my life. This is not elective or recommended-it is MANDATORY. I must monitor my sodium intake carefully and limit myself to 1,000 mg. of sodium per day. This is considered a VERY low sodium diet because 1,500 - 2,000 mg of sodium per day is considered a low sodium diet. To give you a sense of perspective 1/4 of a teaspoon of table salt is 1,600 mg. of sodium. As I have now discovered, meals you can order at your favorite restaurant can often be 2,000; 3,000 or even close to 4,000 mg of sodium per MEAL!!! There are many of my old favorite restaurants where I can’t order anything on their menu without exceeding my salt restriction for the entire day. But I am not going to whine or preach here. Lets just say it sucks to be me in terms of dining out and move on. I took my new very low sodium diet very seriously and did everything I was told to do without cheating. So as a reward my doctor is letting me do 1,500 mg. of sodium on Saturdays when I like to make a grilled or smoked meal for my family. The difference between 1,500 and 1,000 mg. doesn’t sound like much, but it makes certain things possible that simply can’t happen with a 1,000 mg. salt restriction.

Low Potassium Intake:
I have to watch my intake of Potassium Chloride carefully too, Many salt substitutes use potassium chloride in lieu of sodium chloride. The medicine I will be on for the rest of my life helps the body process potassium quicker so it can focus more on processing the sodium chloride. So switching to a salt substitute that uses potassium chloride in lieu of the sodium chloride kind of defeats the purpose. So any salt substitute I use has to also be low in potassium.

No Alcohol:
When I first heard this restriction, it didn’t bother me even in the least. Sure I like having an ice cold beer now and again, but giving that up just wasn’t a big deal. For social use of alcohol I can drink non-alcoholic beer, which I have heard aren’t too bad these days. But after I started thinking about cooking again, I realized many marinades use alcohol as an ingredient. Also ingredients like vanilla extract are 33% alcohol by volume. There are some easy substitutes for certain types of alcohol, but others are more difficult to substitute for. Plus in some cases the alcohol is used to help break down or tenderized the meat. an substitute ingredient isn’t going to have that capabilty. The good news is my doctor told me alcohol for use in a sauce or marinade is acceptable. Also I can have as much non-alcoholic beer as I like. At this point I was thrilled, but there was an extra bonus I never expected. It was only because I have been so disciplined RE: this new diet. The doctor said I can have ONE and ONLY ONE beer or glass of wine per week. So cheers!! I still plan to use alcohol substitutes when ever I can without affecting the taste of the end product.

No Brines:
Brines are a mixture of salt and a liquid so this is a no-brainer. Being able to still make marinades with alcohol in them kind of took the sting out of no brines. These days most poultry dishes use either a brine or marinade to help keep them moist. So I would have been in trouble if I lost the ability to use brines AND marinades. No brines I can deal with.

Watch My Carbohydrates and Calories:
I have lost 75 pounds between my new diet and the medicine I am on, which is a diuretic among other things. I need to loose another 10 pounds over the next 6 months. So I will need to keep an eye on the Carbs and Calories I take in.

Watch My Sugar Intake:
Many fruits and other items that are low in sodium can be very high in sugar. I need to keep an eye on this to help keep the calories within reason and avoid giving myself diabetes. My family doesn’t have a history of diabetes, so I am probably OK there. But I will still need to watch my sugar intake because I need to keep my weight down and lose the additional 10 pounds.

BIG PICTURE - What CAN I Eat?:

This portion of the blog will give you a preview of what you may see more or less of on the site going forward. IF this isn’t of particular interest to you, then you can scroll down the the next section of what my new diet will mean to the site.

More of These:

  • More - Main Courses: Chicken, Turkey, Fish, Pork, and Beef. The items I make will be minus salty rubs, or marinades. No brines at all.
  • More - Veggies: Veggies are inherently low in sodium, you just have to not add sodium with toppings or sauces.
  • More - Salads: Salads are veggies, and veggies are good low sodium food sources. To me vegetable taste the best when grilled. Once again I must watch the seasonings, dressings and toppings.
  • More - Fruit: Fruits are low in sodium, but I will need to watch the sugar/calories. Fruit tastes really great when the grills heat caramelizes the plant sugars in the fruit. So more grilled fruit dishes

Less of These:

  • No - Brined Items: Brined = liquid and salt solution. Salt is out of the question. Enough said.
  • Less - Store Bought Condiments: 99% of the store bought condiments are very high in sodium. There are some reduced sodium condiments which are about 50% less sodium than the regular version. But even these are relatively high in sodium. The solution appears to be to make my own condiments and leave the high sodium items out.
  • Less - Cheese: Most cheeses are quite high in sodium. There are some low sodium Swiss cheeses out there, but Swiss cheese isn’t great with all dishes. I am still researching to see if I can find some other low sodium cheeses. Also I may be able to sneak in some cheese by reducing the sodium elsewhere in the meal.
  • Less - Breads and Rolls: Baked goods are a problem. Quick rise baked goods use using baking soda and baking powder are a problem because baking soda has as much sodium as table salt. Baking powder has 50% as much which means it is still very high. There are some baking powder substitutes, but many of them are high in potassium which is another no-no for me. There are some baking soda substitutes that use potassium and the others that don’t use potassium often require you to use 50-100% more. You often need to try several versions of the recipe to get the amount of these substitutes figured out. Baked goods that use yeast, often call for salt too. The salt is often used to kill off some of the yeast and retard the rise. So you can’t simply throw in a salt substitute, because you will get to much rise. I don’t yet know what the solution is here. I am working with a nutritionist now, and he is looking into this for me too.
  • Less - Desserts: The same problem as the Breads and Rolls as described above. I am hoping to find some workable solutions so I will be able to control the sodium levels and have more baked goods. This is a work in progress.
  • Less - Pizzas: At least until I solve the baked goods question. Then I will be making more veggie or meatless pizzas.
  • No - Salty Rubs: I will need to use a salt substitute to replace the salt used in the rub. The trick will be finding the right one. I was happy to discover that the rub vendor Dizzy Pig has no-sodium versions of two of their rubs, that taste nearly identical to me.
  • No - Salt Block Grilled Food: Whoops! I wish I had waited a month or so and I would not have bought my pink Himalayan Salt Block.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THIS SITE:

Big Picture:
I don’t want my new diet to affect this site too much. I don’t want to become an evangelist for a low sodium life style or healthy living. People make changes because they want to, or as in my case they have to. I am not going to try to convince people to adopt this diet. Frankly I wouldn’t be going this route if I didn’t have to. This whole event has certainly given new meaning to the phrase: “I can live with this”. I have to do this, you don’t. I will cover some of the things I discover along the way to make this diet work, but I will not be beating people over the head with it or going on and on about the virtues of my diet. When I was sentenced, er I mean told to go on this diet I was overwhelmed. What was I going to be able to eat? I had visions/nightmares of not being able to use my Eggs anymore. Fortunately things aren’t quite as bad as I originally feared. So I will be describing some of the things I am learning along the way to help others who may have to do this too.

Additional Info on Substitutions:
The redesigned site has additional information about each cook located in the area just below the picture gallery. This information uses an accordion layout with a series of information located in text fields you access by clicking on a header. The information field expands to reveal the information and collapses when you are done reading it. I am adding an additional information field on why I chose the recipe and what I did to get the recipe to work under my diet. I also will give a quick review of how it tasted with the reduced sodium ingredients. Because this field is a section of the accordion layout, you only see the info if you expand the field. Those of you who don’t need to watch your salt, don’t need to expand the field.

Recipe Choices:
I will be making more things like poultry, grilled salads etc. to suit my new diet. But I still intend to make low and slow BBQ dishes too. Bottom line: I don’t want to give up all my favorite dishes. I just need to learn how to make them work.

Related Blog Entries or Tips:
I will be writing some blog entries or tips on some of the discoveries I am making in this quest for low sodium dishes. I have no plans to go all healthy eating all of the time. Once again, I will not get preachy about it. But I figure some of what I am learning may help others, and this has always been the reason to write my blog: To help others.

NEW DIRECTIONS, NEW DISHES:

New Dishes:
I wasn’t idle during the period I was working on the site update. I was also using the time I had to take off from work to start learning new ways of cooking and trying new dishes and various salt substitutes and no sodium seasoning blends. I made about 20 dishes in late August and early September. Now that the site renovation is completed I will be posting photo entries for many of these recipes. As a teaser I made some great fish recipes, including my first attempts at deep frying on the Egg. I made some great fish and chips for example. I learned how to make my own tortillas, minus the salt, to be used for burritos and grilled quesadillas. I made my own pit pockets. I made several great chicken dishes and some excellent grilled salads. I also made some great steaks, minus the salt. Now that the renovated site is up and running again, I will start posting these new entries shortly.

New Directions:
If you have been regular visitors to the site, I hope to keep holding your interest going forward. I will be adding new diet related information, but in such a way that if you are not interested it won’t be in your way or in your face. The low sodium changes to the recipe will be something YOU must seek out. If you don’t need to do it, then you don’t need to seek of the information. There will also be some additional blogs or tips from time to times on what I am learning, but there will still be just as many general interest topics as before. So I sincerely hope you will like the changes I made to the site, as described in CH-CH-CHANGES I and I hope to keep all existing regulars, while hopefully attracting some new users who are interested in lower sodium grilling and smoking.

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