Nutrition Articles

The Art of Eating Naked

Going Au Naturel with Your Food

When was the last time you ate naked? No, I’m not talking about that pizza you ate in bed last weekend, so please put your pants back on.

I’m talking about whipping up lunch or dinner without condiments, sauces or the other extras we’ve come to think of as “must-haves” for bringing out the flavor of our foods: salt, sugar, creamer, ketchup, mayo, mustard, dressings, dips, and hollandaise…seriously folks!

Those who study food and eating will tell you that our love of salt and sugar, just to name a few, are learned habits that we acquired through a steady diet of the stuff.

I can vouch for the salt thing. When I discovered I had high blood pressure, I stopped shaking the white stuff on my fries, burgers, steaks and veggies. A week or two into my sodium boycott, I began to not only love the taste of my unsalted foods, but to also despise the taste of salty ones! Science backs me up. Research shows people get accustomed to lower-sodium diets in a matter of months, and also begin to find regularly-salted foods "too salty." Told you so!

But the biggest culprit isn’t that little white shaker on your kitchen table. It’s the sodium-soaked food products you buy at the supermarket.

You probably saw the recent headlines that told us “Food Makers Pressured to Cut Sodium.” A powerful group of health experts, food police and consumer watchdogs joined forces in an attempt to shake up the salt industry.

According to an AP story that grabbed my attention, “Americans eat nearly two teaspoons of salt daily, more than double what they need for good health," and "three-fourths of that sodium comes inside common processed foods."

That same news story said that if sodium in processed restaurant foods was cut in half, 150,000 lives would be saved each year alone, according to the American Medical Association.

Current nutrition guidelines say that 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day is a safe upper limit, but the Institute of Medicine says just 1,500 mg a day is all we need (sodium helps to regulate your body's fluid balance).

So how can average Americans trim their daily intake of nearly 4,000 mg of sodium? For starters:
  • Take the salt shaker off the table.
  • Cook without salt.
  • Experiment with salt substitutes and other salt-free seasonings like herbs and spices.
It’s also a good idea to also avoid any seasonings that taste salty, including bouillon cubes, cooking sherry or cooking wine, chili sauce, meat tenderizer, seasoned salts, soy sauce, steak sauce and Worcestershire. Instead, try cooking with low-salt seasonings, such as lemon juice, vinegar and herbs.

Cutting your sodium intake is great. But why stop there? If you want to truly eat naked and be a noshing nudist, ask yourself these questions: Do I really need mayo on my sandwich, ketchup on my hot dog, and globs of dressing on my salad? The answer is HECK NO!

I find a juicy sandwich with low-fat cheese, lettuce, onion and tomato tastes great without secret sauces. Light oil and vinegar is a better choice than mayo on my Subway lunch (it lets me and my sub breathe easier), and salad dressings on the side offer more than adequate flavor. (Dip a forkful at a time rather than fishing for your veggies under a sea of Thousand Island or French.)

The calories you save will really add up each day, week and month that you reduce your use of condiments. And if you don’t replace those fatty sauces and dressings with other high-cal foods, you just might drop a few pounds to boot.

Now, who’s ready to go skinny dipping for dinner?

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Member Comments

  • Funny, Because of my other meds, sodium, choride and potassium leaches out. I have to add extra salt to everything
    I rarely use salt.
  • I do not add salt at the table and I cook most things with either little or no salt. Cooking for my extended family (like for holidays) is a bit of a challenge because I enjoy my food with less than they do, so I tend to cook to my tastes instead of theirs. I do still buy some processed foods and I probably always will. And just the thought of having absolutely NO condiments on things like burgers and/or hot dogs (both I which I eat little of) just will not be considered. I agree with 2 of the earlier posters: one said to add sodium to the nutrient tracker to see how much you are getting in your daily food & drink; the other said all things in moderation. Do what you want or need to do for you.
  • I mostly cook without adding salt - always have. Now I have high bp and am amazed at how much sugar and salt are added to processed foods. We do not buy canned foods - just fresh or frozen.
    I don't worry about salt. Only some people have salt-sensitive hypertension, reducing salt consumption is not necessary for the rest of us. I absolutely love salt. I'm not sure that I agree with you about getting used to a low sodium diet. It might work for some people, but my parents eat low sodium at home, but they love restaurant food, they don't find it to be too salty. But I assure you, restaurant food has a lot of salt. As a professional cook, I was taught to add salt in layers. Every layer should be flavorful. Adding salt at the table cannot correct underseasoned food. As far as other condiments, I use some. I've always thought the fork dip dressing thing is bizarre, and completely unsatisfying. If I can't have my salads the way that I want them, I'd rather just skip them.
  • So the tip is to just get used to it? I thought they were going to describe an art. This article felt kind of elitist imho.
  • I have low blood pressure, always have. So, the blood pressure thing isn't an issue for me.

    However, I often eat "naked." I use fresh salsa as salad dressing. I almost never pick up the salt shaker (pepper shaker on the other hand...I don't think I could live without that).
    Seriously, who would ever put ketchup on a hot dog? French FRies= Yes,hamburger= Yes. hot dog= definitely NOT!

    It is a good idea to lessen ones salt intake
  • I am the one who has hi bp and am now underweight rather than over. My DH is overweight and is a saltaholic but has normal BP, go figure! I try to cut salt but he complains "needs salt". I use low sodium seasonings and even separate my food from his. I buy no salt added tomatoes and other canned or frozen veggies. Never have liked to float my salad. I prefer tasting the salad. He of course dumps dressing on his salad and then turns the bowl up to drink the liquid after he finishes the salad.
  • More and more people are asking food manufacturers to make low sodium or sodium free versions of their foods. I've personally switched to low sodium versions of worchestershire sauce and ketchup, and really can't tell the difference. I use salt free canned tomatoes and pasta sauces, and I ALWAYS read the labels and look at how much sodium is listed! It's part and parcel of becoming better educated and more aware of the foods you put into your body.
  • Good article, but most people are not actually in danger from salt consumption:

  • I have cut the salt for a long time. As a kid I remember growing up on Spaghetti O's and now the taste makes me cringe. I don't add butter or salt to my veggies, rather I steam them all in the microwave and eat them as they are. My kids don't know the difference and they taste great! It's another way I slim down without effort.
  • Ketchup on hot dogs is just plain wrong.
    Some people are salt-sensitive. Once you start cutting back on salt, you'll realize how salty restaurant foods are. I can easily gain 3-5 pounds of water weight after eating a restaurant Chinese, Mexican, or Italian meal.

    I always ask for my food to be prepared without salt. Then, if I think the food needs flavoring, I'll sprinkle a little on. When I cook at home, I use the bare minimum of salt, but increase the other seasonings. If anyone wants more flavor, they can add salt.

    Many processed, convenience foods & mixes are high sodium.

    The USRDA for sodium for a healthy person is 2300 mg per day - that's about 1 teaspoon. For people with health issues, like high blood pressure or risk of heart attack, the RDA has been reduced to 1500 mg per day. You can add sodium to your tracker as an additional nutrient.

  • The author isn't recommending that you cook entirely without salt. The recommendation is to not add salt at the table(especially in the form of high sodium condiments)and to consume less processed foods which are loaded with sodium. A reasonable amount of salt in cooking is good for you and no nutritionist will argue with you on that.
    As for the comment that there has been no proof that sodium intake was tied to high blood pressure and increased risk of chronic disease, I guess you hadn't heard about the DASH diet and the research results from their studies. Look it up. Even the Wikipedia entry on the subject will show you that many more studies have been done that prove the link of increased health at lower sodium intake levels.
    I had the huge advantage of dating a guy in my teens who's father was on a severely restricted salt intake diet. As a consequence of all the meals at my boyfriend's house I learned to become very salt sensitive.
    Every recipe you make you can safely cut the salt in half without consequence in flavor. It can be eliminated entirely in many things as well. My cooking isn't bland at all with lower than average salt. Fresh ingredients, careful blending of tastes and textures and proper seasoning with herbs more than compensates for a bit less of the white stuff.

About The Author

John McGran John McGran
During his 25-year writing and editing career, John has written for several newspapers, magazines and websites.

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