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HEALTHY LIVING — Spend some time reading nutrition labels

I recently spent over an hour in the Golden Triangle’s premier health food store, reading labels. A lot of labels.

Finally, I gave up and approached one of the super friendly and helpful workers and asked him to point me in the direction of the low salt/no salt, sugar free foods. He kind of laughed and told me to go to the fresh produce section. He was right.

Today’s column is inspired by my husband. He is a heart patient whose doctor has told him, “If it tastes good, spit it out” and “Eat nothing but cardboard and greens”. He is also a Type 2 Diabetic. Grocery shopping is an excruciating adventure each week.

I have been doing this for a long time, over 20 years of varying degrees of low fat. Only in recent years have we added the no sugar, and very recently the no salt. There is nothing quick and easy. Nothing prepackaged. And coming up with something flavorful with the limited options available has become my mission.

So, as I often advise, you shop the perimeter of the store. Fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, eggs, olive oil, REAL butter, and frozen vegetables without sauces or additives. There are a few pasta alternatives, made from chick peas and lentils that are actually pretty good.

Let’s start at the beginning. Go to your spice drawer/rack/shelf, look at everything on there, read every label carefully and throw away everything that lists salt anywhere except the very end in the ingredients. Amazing how many seasoning are primarily salt. Lemon pepper? Look again, mostly salt. The good news is, there are many varieties of spice blends and seasonings that are no salt.

I even found a well-known brand of Cajun seasoning that now comes salt free. I have gotten them through online shopping, they are readily available in the larger grocery stores and in that premier health food store I mentioned earlier. Also, there are all kinds of dried and fresh herbs and spices out there. Use them, experiment till you find a combination you like.

Love greens and not sure what to do to cook them healthy? Add onion, a little dash of salt-free all-purpose seasoning, red pepper flakes, and some good extra virgin-cold press olive oil. YUM! Oven roasted veggies, splashed with a little EVOO and herbs, delicious! Sautéed fish fillets with a little lime or lemon salt free seasoning and a shake of smoked paprika, served over buttered riced cauliflower, tasty!

The point is, cooking for special needs is time consuming, requires some imagination and a lot of label reading, and more trips to the grocery store to get the freshest vegetables and fruits. But it is also completely possible to provide healthy, flavorful meals that don’t taste like cardboard.

You are only limited by your imagination. Go out there, read some labels and stir something up. Stay healthy, my friends.

Jody Holton writes about health for The Port Arthur News. Email her at jholton3@gt.rr.com