Your Salt-Free Thanksgiving: 5 Ways to Help Grandpa Enjoy Dinner

Your Salt-Free Thanksgiving: 5 Ways to Help Grandpa Enjoy Dinner

In this article

“Thanksgiving is the meal we aspire for other meals to resemble.”

–Jonathan Safran Foer

Nothing says Thanksgiving like an overloaded table of food.

But what do you do when Grandma and Grandpa can’t eat half of it because of dietary restrictions?

It’s time to get creative with your ingredients. Starting with the most basic.

Salt

Because we all want to know. If food “loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” (Matthew 5:13)

(Full disclosure: I am not a dietician. I am not a doctor. These are just ideas that I have learned along the way. Please check with your doctor/dietician to confirm it’s okay for you and YOUR grandparents.)

When You CAN’T Take It with a Grain of Salt

The doctor says no salt. Maybe it’s kidney problems, hypertension, or “just” general swelling in Grandpa’s hands, face, feet… (Why the quotation marks around “just”? Because there’s nothing “just” about it. It makes him more at risk of falls, the number one danger for senior citizens.)

So what now? Is he destined to eat bland food?

No worries. You’ve got options.

1. The “No Salt” Salt: Potassium Chloride

If it’s sodium that’s the problem (table salt is sodium chloride [NaCl]), you might be able to switch to the potassium chloride version. Morton sells it. As does a brand called Nu Salt.

Have Grandpa try a little bit of it before using it on everything. Some people complain of a chemical taste. Others say it tastes like the real thing.

2. When Good Potassium Is ALSO Bad

Usually, potassium-rich foods are crucial. They keep heartbeats regular, jump-start muscles, keep nerves firing, and move nutrients in—and waste out—of cells. They even offset sodium’s effect on blood pressure. That’s why athletes eat all those bananas.

But if Grandpa’s on kidney dialysis, potassium is a no-no.

What next? Enter “Table Tasty Salt Substitute,” the “no potassium, no sodium, no bitter after taste” choice.

The ingredients?

  • Nutritional yeast extract (No Candida Albicans, No Msg), carrot, red bell pepper, onion, lemon, arrowroot, garlic, celery, dill, paprika, allspice, sweet basil and parsley.

Apparently, there IS a trace amount of potassium—hence the “ask your doctor” warning—but many referrers say it was just what they needed.

And their tongues thought it was salt.

3. Salt Is Not the ONLY Spice of Life

No doubt about it, we Americans like our salt. But it ISN’T really a spice. It’s a mineral.

So now’s the perfect time to get to know the other flavors in your cabinet.

My #1 favorite?

Garlic.

We use it in mashed potatoes, as a rub on steak and roast, when steaming or grilling vegetables, and, of course, in roasting and basting that perfect bird and its stuffing.

You’ve even got options on the form:

  • Grind or slice it fresh from garlic pods.
  • Measure and sprinkle from granulated garlic.
  • Cut the work but keep the strength by picking up a jar of ready-to-use minced garlic

Just stay away from garlic salt—’cause that defeats the purpose. There’s no telling the ratio of salt to garlic anyway. And personally, while I love the granulated, I’m not a fan of garlic powder. Seems you need to add an awful lot of it to make a difference.

Of course, garlic isn’t the only option. Add basil, marjoram, thyme…even a touch of nutmeg goes a long way to making them forget salt altogether.

4. Turmeric—More than Just for Asian Dishes

This orange-colored spice loves all things curry. But add touches of it in your cooking (vegetables, spaghetti sauce), and it mimics salt.

In fact, once when I made a salt-free dinner for Grandpa, I threw a little turmeric in my lasagna—and I when I served it, I thought someone had grabbed the saltshaker.

I haven’t found it to work so well as an after-cooking additive.

But a few shakes during cooking gives the food another dimension.

5. Mrs. Dash: “Spicing things up” with 14 Blends

Popular in the 80’s and 90’s, this salt-free seasoning somehow got branded as having MSG.

False News! It wasn’t true.

Mrs. Dash—which is changing its name to just plain “Dash”—contains no MSG. Zip, zilch, zero.

Its original blend ingredients?

  • Onion, Spices (Black Pepper, Parsley, Celery Seed, Basil, Bay Marjoram, Oregano, Savory, Thyme, Cayenne Pepper, Coriander, Cumin, Mustard, Rosemary), Garlic, Carrot, Orange Peel, Tomato, Lemon Juice Powder, Citric Acid, Oil of Lemon.

Meaning it combines a lot of those spices we talked about earlier—in one easy shake.

Plus there’s still those other fourteen blends to choose from.

Seems they’ve earned their motto: “A dash a day helps keep salt away.”

Avoiding the Saltlick

In 2015, it apparently become hipster to wear Himalayan pink salt on a necklace. (What will they think of next?) Either way, Grandpa’s Thanksgiving dinner can be plenty hip without it.

Whether you switch to a healthy salt-substitute or experiment with spices, his dinner can be just as delicious.

Which one are you excited to try? Tell us about it.

Of course, salt isn’t the only tweak you might need to make. Check out these other meal adjustments when your grandparents can’t have butter or sugar.

Because Thanksgiving isn’t just about food. But it sure is a tasty part.

Thank you to Johnny Cohen on Unsplash for the featured photo

Elizabeth Daghfal
• 3 min read

Elizabeth Daghfal is a writer, teacher, speaker, and community volunteer. When she isn't teaching or writing-- Who are we kidding? Her husband and five kids say she's ALWAYS teaching and writing. She has a passion to help people who are struggling and is happy to say her shoulders are drip-dry. Born and raised in the South, she now lives in Wisconsin and loves it--except for the fifteen months of winter. Read more about her at elizabethdaghfal.com.