Ah, the holiday season – a time for festive cheer, cherished traditions, and, of course, mouthwatering feasts. But for those navigating the world of low-sodium living, the thought of navigating the holiday table can be daunting. Will there be a low sodium holiday turkey? How do you partake in the culinary delights of the season without sending your sodium levels soaring?
And what about the chef? Cooking for someone who needs a low sodium holiday meal can often feel like walking a tightrope, balancing the desire to create delicious dishes with the need to adhere to strict dietary restrictions. The pressure to deliver a memorable meal while ensuring it is low in salt can be overwhelming.
There’s no need to stress! With a little planning and creativity, it’s entirely possible to whip up a feast that delights the taste buds without compromising on health. Here are the secrets of finding the perfect low sodium turkey for your holiday table.
COMPARE NUTRITION LABELS
Before you toss that turkey into your cart, take a moment to read the nutrition label. Aim for around 80 mg of sodium per 4-ounce serving, which is the average amount naturally found in turkey meat. This ensures you’re starting with a low sodium base for your holiday meal.
Let’s examine the sodium content of Butterball, one of the best-selling frozen turkey brands in America. All three of the turkeys in the picture above are sold as frozen products. The packaging may look similar, but the sodium content varies.
The turkey labeled “Fully Cooked” clocks in at 630 mg of sodium for a 4-ounce serving. That is crazy! Rember, a 4-ounce serving of turkey naturally has about 80mg of sodium. So, what’s with the additional 550 mg of sodium??? It is because it has been “seasoned” and pumped with salt water.
Now that the fully cooked one is off the table, it leaves the one labeled “Fresh” and the one with the “Premium” label. Surely one of them must be low in salt? The Fresh Butterball has 130 mg of sodium per 4-ounce serving while the Premium Butterball has 200 mg of sodium for the same serving size. That means technically, the “Fresh” one is lower in sodium, but it is still higher than the target range of about 80 mg of sodium per serving.
None of the Butterball turkeys meet the standard we’ve set for a low sodium holiday turkey.
SCOURING THE AISLES FOR A LOW SODIUM HOLIDAY TURKEY
Now, the hunt begins. Take your time to explore the turkey options available at your local grocery store. Don’t overlook store brands – they often offer turkeys without the added saltwater brine found in many name brands.
For instance, Wegmans offers a turkey with a mere 55 mg of sodium per serving. While their serving size may differ slightly from other brands, a quick calculation reveals that 4 ounces of Wegmans turkey contains just 73 mg of sodium – almost half the amount found in other popular brands like Butterball.
Opting for a store brand may not only save you sodium but also some cash, as many stores offer special discounts on their turkeys during the holiday season, especially through loyalty programs.
RETHINK YOUR MENU: If a full turkey proves elusive without added salt, consider serving a turkey breast instead. Many brands offer frozen turkey breasts that are not packaged in saltwater, making them a convenient and low sodium alternative for your holiday table.
TALK TO YOUR BUTCHER: For those who prefer a more personalized touch, a visit to the meat department counter may be in order. Ask your butcher if they can procure a whole turkey with minimal added salt. Oftentimes, they can accommodate special orders. Be sure to specify that you’re aiming for a turkey with around 80 mg of sodium per serving to ensure it meets your dietary needs.
Just remember to plan ahead if you want to special order a turkey. Your store will need plenty of time to have your turkey delivered and shipping takes longer around the holidays. So, the more advanced notice you can give your butcher, the better.
SHOP AROUND & PLAN AHEAD: If your usual grocery store does not have what you need, go elsewhere. You might find that a short drive across town or to a nearby city will provide you the low sodium holiday turkey you are seeking.