Thu, 08 Mar 2012

Read those labels!

Sometimes being a dietitian feels a bit like being a detective. Every once in a while I will come across someone whose blood work just doesn’t seem to make any sense. Diet recalls and food records don’t show any significant sources of potassium or phosphorus so both the patient and I are completely unable to figure out the source of the problem. That is because sometimes it’s not the person who has changed her diet but the foods themselves that have changed. I have a couple examples that I thought I would share:
Recently one of our grocery stores switched meat suppliers and brought in new products with phosphate additives. Many people who’ve been shopping there for years didn’t notice the switch and all of a sudden saw a jump in their serum phosphorus levels! Their chicken breasts were suddenly a very high phosphorus (and sodium) food!

Low sodium foods can sometimes be an unsuspected source of potassium. Switching from your regular soup to the low salt version may seem like a bit of a no-brainer but for people on a potassium restriction it can be dangerous. Food manufacturers often substitute sodium chloride with potassium chloride since it has a salty flavour. This can bring potassium levels way up!  By law in Canada, if potassium chloride is used to reduce sodium then the nutrition facts table needs to include the amount of potassium in the list. This can be an excellent clue to the presence of added potassium chloride. When in doubt though – you should check your list of ingredients for potassium chloride.

And even something as innocent as a morning bowl of oatmeal can be a source of hidden salt. Switching to the packets of instant oatmeal instead of regular oatmeal can add 170mg sodium to your breakfast!

So the real message is “read your labels”! Compare plain pasta or rice at 0mg sodium/serving with some of the packaged pasta and rice “sides” that can add upwards of 700mg/serving. Try this quick pasta dish that goes together very quickly and is very low in salt.


Spaghetti with shrimp

1/2 lb spaghetti or spaghettini
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp crushed red chilies
1 red pepper, diced
1 lb raw shrimp
1/3 cup toasted fresh bread crumbs
Freshly ground pepper
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Cook pasta according to package instructions. In large skillet, heat oil over medium-low heat and add garlic and crushed red chilies. Cook, stirring, for one minute. Add peppers and cook 5 minutes longer (don’t brown). Add the shrimp and cook for one minute longer. Add the wine and turn the heat up to medium. Simmer until the shrimp turns opaque and starts to curl. If the spaghetti is not ready yet keep warm over low heat. Drain pasta, place in large serving dish. Pour sauce over pasta and toss together with breadcrumbs until the pasta is coated. Serve with freshly ground pepper and parsley. Makes 4 servings.