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September 9, 2008 9:06 AM   Subscribe

A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with Meniere's Disease -- basically chronic vertigo and other inner ear/balance issues. The first course of treatment is through diet: very low salt and no alcohol. The trouble is he still eats like he is in college...

My friend has been having vertigo episodes for a few months now and after a docket of tests the doctors have come up with the diagnosis of Meniere's Disease. The verdict: no (or very little) alcohol and a fairly low-sodium diet (around 1800 mg daily right now).

My friend's diet consists of sodium laden convenience foods like frozen pizzas, frozen french fries, lunch meats, canned soups, etc. It would be a lot easier to help him eat better were he not halfway across the US, away from his girlfriend and most of his friends who would gladly batch cook healthier meals for him were it more convenient. He's coming to visit in October so we will have the chance to teach him how to cook some stuff.

I am looking for easy, simple low-sodium "replacements" for the stuff he is used to eating -- he is not a whiz in the kitchen and he is somewhat of a picky eater. As his girlfriend puts it, he "hates eating." He does eat some fruits and vegetables, although usually raw fruits are the extent of it.

Things I have come up with so far:
-I want to look into prepackaged pizza dough mixes (Betty Crocker, etc) to see what the sodium content is like, but the trouble is coming up with low sodium pizza sauces, cheeses, and other toppings?
-Roasted sweet potato "fries" that would have a lot more flavor without the salt.
-Low sodium batch cooking of easy soups and stews -- maybe look into getting him a crock-pot?

Low-sodium resources and recipes are appreciated. Also any advice from people who have dealt with this disease or vertigo episodes would be much appreciated as nobody seems to know anything about this strange affliction. He's committed to feeling better and we'd like to help him as much as we can! Thanks!
posted by sararah to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Oatmeal with dried fruits. Organic milk with dried fruits and nuts. Boiled potatoes with butter - they are already naturally salty so that no table salt needs to be added. All of these are very easy to make.
posted by rainy at 10:03 AM on September 9, 2008

I have that too.
I can give some 1st hand advice on the Vertigo episodes, have him keep Dramamine with him. After awhile you can "feel" them coming and when that happens I take one of those and it helps tremendously. Also I have found mine are usually caused by a stressful event.

As far as foods/drinks go, have him check this out. There is some really good advice on here.
posted by ShawnString at 10:16 AM on September 9, 2008

oh also, Roast beef and Swiss cheese. Almost no sodium.

and according to my old dr (ex-head of ENT at Johns Hopkins) avoid coffee. Caffeine is bad.
posted by ShawnString at 10:21 AM on September 9, 2008

Birds Eye offers single-serve frozen veggies that can be made in the microwave in just a couple of minutes. They have no sauce, and only the brussels sprouts have any sodium (20mg), which I think is natural. I have tried both the peas and corn, and really like them.

Green Giant also has Just for Ones, but only one of them does not have sauce.

Many other companies offer frozen veggies w/o sauce in various family size and/or resealable bags. Steamer bags (built-in or separately purchasedlike these ziploc steamers) can make veggies much easier for someone who doesn't cook much but likes plain steamed veggies.
posted by clerestory at 11:32 AM on September 9, 2008

My husband, who is salt conscious for different reasons, makes a really good "fake" low-salt pizza using Thomas' English Muffins, swiss cheese, plain old canned tomatoes, and goat cheese, and lots of garlic salt. Swiss cheese and goat cheese both have very low salt content, generally (though check the brand before you buy it). I am not on a low salt diet but this pizza is very good and pretty easy to make. We use a toaster oven.

I recently made low salt fajitas that we enjoyed so much that I made them again a week later. This is a little fussier because of all the pepper cutting and lime squeezing, but you might be able to buy pre-cut green and red peppers and substitute lime juice.

Juice of 5-6 limes (substitute lime juice?)
1 teasp paprika
1 teasp ground cumin
1 teasp garlic salt
1/4 to 1/2 teasp cayenne pepper
(stir until blended)

Chop 5 small cloves of garlic and split between 2 different frying pans with olive oil. (You can probably substitute canned pre-minced garlic for fresh.)

Chop 1 onion, 1 green pepper, & 1 red pepper; add to one frying pan.

Chop 3 chicken breasts into 3/4 inch strips (can probably use pre-cut chicken tender type slices from grocery if friend doesn't like cutting raw chicken) and add to other frying pan.

Let chicken cook for about 3 minutes, then add half of marinade mixture above. Cover.

Let peppers cook for about 10 minutes, then add the rest of the marinade mixture. Do not cover. (Marinade will basically evaporate leaving spices, etc.)

Turn the chicken pieces over after about 7 minutes; if you want the marinade to evaporate at that point you can leave uncovered.

Add black pepper to both pans to taste.

For me, the chicken cooks faster than the peppers, so it's good to start the peppers earlier. Also, if you would rather have a more traditional char-grilled chicken, marinate the chicken in its part of the marinade for at least 4 hours before you cook it, and don't cook the chicken in the marinade it soaked in. (Still add the marinade to the peppers & onions while they're cooking.) That's what I did the first time I made this, but the second time I didn't have time to marinade and thought it was just as good to cook it in the marinade. Both times the chicken came out really flavorful.

We used low-salt tortillas and served with low-salt black beans, salsa, sour cream, and rice. My husband added some shredded swiss cheese to his fajita, and I used monterey jack. (Also, there are some really good low-salt tortilla chips available through Trader Joe's.)

I'm not sure about your other specific questions, but I do know Prego has a "heart smart" spaghetti sauce (though that is something like 440 mg salt/serving -- not sure that's low enough for your friend).

Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 12:20 PM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

My dad has Meniere's. No fun. I definitely recommend giving the crock pot idea a shot. My dad isn't big on cooking at all, but he uses a crock pot to make large batches of easy stews and soups, which don't require much skill or effort to prepare. He keeps his freezer stocked with single-serving portions to eat whenever. He compensates for missing salt with a whole lot of other herbs and spices, rather than using salt substitutes. Doing that has been a big help in breaking his cravings for salty foods. It should be fairly easy to find low-sodium chicken or beef stock at a regular grocery store. Definitely be cautious about pre-packaged foods that are labeled "low salt" or "lower salt," which often may have much more sodium than one might expect.

My dad has also found that many restaurants are very willing to prepare low sodium dishes for him when he goes out. At first it made him uncomfortable to make special requests like that, but now he's over it and orders what he wants. Good luck!
posted by lbo at 1:03 PM on September 9, 2008

What about a food delivery service by someone like Home Bistro. They offer good food, decent portion sizes, reasonable prices, low sodium choices and they are easy to prepare. I'm sure there are many of these kind of services to choose from online, but I've had good experience with Home Bistro. And if you are a recurring customer they'll often offer free shipping, which saves a lot of money. Just make sure you have a lot of room in your freezer. Each portion of the meal comes in it's own (boil in bag) package so you can easily mix the vegetables and side dishes (even though their FAQ says you can't).

Most of the frozen foods you find in the supermarket are loaded with salt and preservatives. These food delivery services offer food that is better for you for less the price per serving.

My uncle also suffers from Meniere's disease. No fun.
posted by wherever, whatever at 2:16 PM on September 9, 2008

Thanks for the suggestions, everyone!
posted by sararah at 7:38 AM on September 16, 2008

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