alt=a hand cooking bland food on a skillet with spices sprinkled in

UGH...Food Tastes So Bland

Last updated: January 2023

I have found some tricks on how to deal with 'bland' food without resulting to adding more salt, and I wanted to share them in case other heart failure patients or partners/kids complain about food being bland as a result of sodium restrictions!

There are other flavorings besides salt! Sweet, sour, spicy, and smoky are all flavorings that are not salt. In my experience, the more of these other flavorings there are, the less likely that food seems 'bland.' Experiment, and give yourself time to adjust, until you find what works. But how can you get these flavors into your foods? What are some spices you can start with?

Tips for adding flavor to bland food

  • Sweet flavors can be easy, even without results to table sugar. For example, adding fresh fruit like strawberries, oranges, or pomegranate seeds to a salad can be terrific. Dried date or apricots are also sweet and also have nutrients that table sugar does not possess.
  • Sour flavor can be accomplished by adding a dash of vinegar or incorporating yogurt into a dish. For instance, instead of sour cream, yogurt can be used in a stew. Sauces also can add a lot of flavors, and yogurt can be a staple of many great sauces. Tzatziki sauce is one that comes to mind! There are also terrific herbs, like sumac, that provide a great tang flavor to food- like try a Lebanese Fattoush salad. I did a quick Google search that yielded a recipe that has 31 mg of salt per serving. Dill also has a slightly sour taste that, for my palate, adds a lot of flavor.
  • Spicy flavor can also be easy to add to dishes, and there are many ways to be creative about it. Obviously, jalapeno is spicy, but so is fresh horseradish (salt-free), ginger (free or powder), sodium-free canned green chili, etc. There are herbs that I would call spicy and add a lot of flavors but are not 'spice' in the traditional sense of the word - cinnamon, clove, and cardamom come to my mind!
  • Smokey is a flavoring that I have only recently come across. Personally, I think smoked Paprika is a terrific herb to put on scrambled eggs with roasted tomatoes, red pepper, and tomatoes that does NOT leave me either me or my partner reaching for the saltshaker. Adobe is another one that is smokey, and canned adobe peppers can add a lot of flavors to soups and stews.

Do you have any other ideas? Leave them below as I am not a chef - these are just the tricks I have found over the years.

Dietary restrictions for heart failure does not have to mean bland foods

In all, if you are new to a low-sodium diet, I understand that it can feel hopeless. Once you get used to spices other than salt it is possible to make satisfying food. I also want to put out realistic expectations and say that although making satisfying foods is possible that does not always mean it is easy. When you are on a sodium-restricted diet, it makes being able to order premade or prepackaged food challenging or impossible because they are packed with salt. To stay compliant, you will likely find yourself having to make most of your own food and reading labels in the grocery store much more carefully, as foods can be packed with salt that you do not expect (like premade pasta sauce.)

However, do not despair! Find ways to make food in bulk, find 'easy' recipes and experiment with different herbs and spices to find what works for you. I hope this article has started your culinary creatives juices going!

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