When caring for others, one of the primary functions we are tasked with is meal preparation. This can be one of the most challenging tasks as we seek to reconcile the regular diets of the people we support with some of the dietary restrictions that come in to play as part of the aging process. One restriction that many struggle with is sodium restrictions. Diets high in sodium can contribute to and worsen high blood pressure and other ailments, but many rely on salt to enhance the savory flavors of their food. Low sodium options often taste bland. While there are salt substitutes in the form of potassium chloride, spices and herbs can be another great way to enhance flavor and increase health benefits at meal time.
Some of the more common herbs are parsley, thyme, rosemary, and basil. Parsley and thyme pair well together, and can be added to pasta dishes, chicken, fish, potatoes, and even roasted vegetables to boost the flavor. In addition, parsley adds vitamins C, A, K, and folate, and just two teaspoons of thyme can contribute one half of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K to the diet. Remember that for those people who are taking blood thinners, vitamin K consumption should be closely monitored.
Rosemary is a wonderful flavor enhancer, and very versatile. Rich in bier, iron, and calcium, rosemary may also aid in circulations and improve digestion. Rosemary works wonderfully with roasted meats, and can also be used to add a more subtle flavor in sauces. Additionally, vegetables like tomatoes, spinach, and mushroom pair well with rosemary.
Basil is a traditionally Italian flavor, and can also work well in many dishes. Basil can be incorporated in to pesto sauces, and works well with most white meats. Some more creative uses for basil include brightening up fruit salads, and even bringing a new flavor to fast and easy stir fry dishes. Just remember to add basil at the very end of the meal preparation, as cooking basil ruins the flavor.
Some less common spices that can be used with ease are spices like sage, coriander seeds, dill, and cilantro. Sage is a spice rich in antioxidants, and may be a memory enhancer. It is a great spice to use with sweet fruits and vegetables like apples, or even squash, and also brings an interesting flavor to sausage dishes. Coriander seeds can help regulate blood sugar and cholesterol. They offer a pleasant addition to soups, and also work well with fish and smoked meats. Dill contains iron and calcium, and is a perfect addition to salmon, borscht, and stews. With its citrusy, tangy flavor, cilantro can be combined with lemon and lime juices for marinades, dressings, guacamole and salsa.
This list of spices contributes a variety of flavors to keep dishes even more exciting than the simple savor of salt without being overwhelming. For those who appreciate stronger flavors, cayenne pepper can be used sparingly to add a little bit of heat to any meat, or paired with lemon for a spicier marinade. Turmeric can also bring a strong flavor to vegetables and rice in addition to its commonly known place in curry dishes. Incorporating one or more of these spices to herbs can put care providers well on their way to creating satisfying meals while leaving the salt behind.