Ideas for small low-salt snacks/meals?
January 6, 2017 5:50 AM   Subscribe

Because of Reasons, I find myself needing to prepare frequent low-salt high-calorie meals/snacks for a family member. I'm fairly short on time so simple ideas are better. Not aiming for completely salt-free, but no cheese or sausage or added salt; assume bread is OK. Many thanks for any ideas!
posted by altolinguistic to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hummus sounds like a good option, served with bread or unsalted corn chips.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:03 AM on January 6, 2017

Unsalted mixed nuts and trail mix are kind of the go-to for this.

Guacamole, if you make it yourself, is high-calorie and salt-free (though not totally sodium-free.) Maybe other dips and spreads on bread/crackers/vegetables/nut butter would work? They can be prepared in bulk as cracker-and-dip units ahead of time. Peanut butter without added salt, jam if sugar is OK, hummus with no added salt?

I find that nutritional yeast is low sodium but satisfies for a salty taste. You can put it on baked potatoes and that's pretty good. Hard-boiled eggs don't need salt if you have pepper. A lot of foods are improved with hot sauce, which you have to be careful with because most of it contains salt, so look into which brands work for you.
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:04 AM on January 6, 2017

Toast + avocado + pepper.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 6:19 AM on January 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Caramelized onion jam isn't short on time, but low-effort and you can do it overnight if you have a slow cooker, and maybe a slicing attachment on your food processor. Most store bought onion jam things have a lot of salt but it doesn't need all that much to bring out the incredible flavor. You can spread it on any kind of wrap or bread, pair with any kind of meat (great with simple grilled chicken) or roasted vegetable, mix into dips and spreads to make them tastier, and of course you can make onion soup (with low-sodium cheese melted on the crouton, perhaps).
posted by Mizu at 6:23 AM on January 6, 2017

There are lots of snacks that happen to not have a lot of salt in them, but sometimes your client is going to want _flavor_ and will really miss salt. When that happens you need a strategy.

That strategy is vinegar, lemon juice, or other acidic things, coupled with just enough fat or oil to make the flavor balanced (sometimes that's zero fat, sometimes it's the oil in a vinaigrette dressing).

So, carrot sticks served with vinaigrette (homemade, so no added salt); slightly acidic fruit; beans and rice with za'atar.
posted by amtho at 6:37 AM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Roasted chickpeas + paprika
posted by Ms Vegetable at 6:56 AM on January 6, 2017

Thanks for the ideas so far! Sugar is fine, fat is fine.
posted by altolinguistic at 6:57 AM on January 6, 2017

Is the sodium in Greek yogurt, and cheese made from draining such, at an acceptable level? If so, there is no limit to the snacks you can make from that.
posted by BibiRose at 7:13 AM on January 6, 2017

You really need meat, fish and dairy! Apart from avocado, no vegs are going to do what you need. If this must be vegetarian, you need dishes with lots of oil: hummus can be good depending on the recipe and presentation, or grilled marinated vegetables, or vegetarian moussaka. Eggplants tend to soak up a lot of oil, Imam Bayildi can be good, but is not easy to make well in my opinion.
Some people will eat a sliced avocado with shrimp on toast with butter or mayo.

I sometimes serve two pates from the 70's as starters when I am trying to coax people to get in some calories: chicken liver and tuna mousse. The recipes are almost identical: you blend equal parts of meat and butter. Obviously the chicken liver needs to be cooked first. You can vary the seasonings according to taste. If you use some form of acid - wine, lemon or vinegar, most people won't register the taste as very fat. These keep quite well, in the fridge or freezer, specially if you melt a layer of butter over them before storage.
Example: finely chop one or two banana shallots, soften them in butter. Add 200 g of chicken liver and brown it while squishing the livers with a wooden spoon. Add a small glass of fortified wine (Marsala, Port, Sherry), or a tbs of balsamico and a small glass of chicken broth, cook till all traces of alcohol or harsh vinegar smells are gone. You can add capers if that isn't too salty. Put the it all in a blender or use an immersion blender in a narrow pot and blend till it is completely smooth, pour into a fitting size container and refrigerate till cool. Serve with/on toast.
For the tuna (or salmon or herring), use the same principles. I start with a raw shallot, a wedge of tomato, juice of half of a lemon, a touch of chili flakes, black pepper and a can of tuna. Blend with soft butter till smooth and chill. Serve with/on toast.

Another thing that has worked for me is poached salmon with hollandaise or mayonnaise, served with asparagus and buttered toast and lemon wedges. If you have a steamer, you can steam the fish and asparagus in it, buy the sauce and then you only need to toast and butter. Same with chicken breast or thighs, though I'd go for a cream-based sauce rather then the hollandaise. Mayo works as well for chicken.

Soups thickened with heavy cream and egg yolk. Any soup will do, also store bought. Mix the cream and egg yolk well and take the soup of the heat before stirring in the egg-cream mix vigorously.

Risotto and arancini are the best for this, but are probably a no-go because of cheese.

Tramezzini are delicious and most people like them.
The link provides some examples, but think them as more of a principle. My favorite is tuna, artichoke hearts and mayo. Maybe with tiny squares of tomato for a little acidity. They are a lot like English tea sandwiches, but richer in both taste and calories and that is what you need..

Beef stews of many types can be great, served with a very buttery potato mash, or half a baked potato with butter or sour cream. Obviously any stew is time consuming, but I'd make a good pot during weekends and then pack it in small containers for the freezer. Now I have a pressure cooker and can make anything in less than an hour. If this will be going on for some time for you, a pressure cooker will make sense in many ways.

With all of these rich foods, tea, but not too much is a good drink instead of water or soft drinks. The slight bitterness of the tea contrasts the richness of the food. If chemo is involved that might not work, but every person is different.

Nurses here recommend rich ice parfaits. You can buy them at some stores, but they are easy to make: 1/2 liter full cream to 6 egg yolks and depending on the seasoning, 100 g powdered sugar. Season with vanilla or chocolate or nougat or strawberries or whatever you like. Whip the egg yolks with the sugar till creamy and white, add in whatever else you want. Whip the cream. Mix the two carefully. Freeze - no need to stir. Doesn't keep well but scales nicely.

Yes, I spent 10+ years of my life doing this for different people of different ages and gained 20 kg because company is the best cure for loss of appetite.. Also, presentation. My gran taught me when I was young that when dealing with picky/anoretic/sick eaters, small pretty servings on small plates were all important. Ironically she became one of the people I tried to feed during illness much later in life. And it worked, even while she recognized the trick. Strangely, since she was a very old Danish farmer, she loved sushi, and unagi worked very well for her, if I was buying takeout.
My dad loved curries - even as all his other preferences were blandiblandness, and I spiked them with double cream.

From this experience, I feel for you - those years were really tough and I was often completely exhausted from balancing work, kids and frail relatives. No me time ever. In retrospect I think meal plans and bulk cooking and freezing would have worked better for me. But I know from experience how that in itself can feel overwhelming. I hope you manage well and that this will not be a long term chore.
posted by mumimor at 8:02 AM on January 6, 2017

If bread is okay, then you can make unsalted nut butter sandwiches and go HEAVY on the butter. They can be made up in batches, cut into smallish portions and kept in the fridge for quick snacks. If variety is helpful, then there are all kinds of add ins that could make the sandwiches sweet or savory. In addition to peanut, almond, sunflower or tahini butter/pastes you could add jams, cut fruit or veggies, herbs (peanut butter with basil and sriracha is amazing), chocolate chips, rice crispies, sundried tomatoes, etc.
posted by annaramma at 11:16 AM on January 6, 2017

Low-salt deviled eggs, sub yogurt for the mayo (which contains salt) and use a hot sauce to give a flavor punch that disguises the lack of salt.
posted by aimedwander at 1:07 PM on January 6, 2017

Edamame, the frozen usually come ready-salted but you can buy fresh and boil them. Or you can rinse them.
posted by whitelotus at 1:52 AM on January 7, 2017

Thank you so much to all of you - I now have a rich resource to plunder and lots of ideas.

mumimor, you have divined that this is indeed a difficult situation. No chemo and the person in question has an appetite, but is having trouble keeping food down. Thank you for the words of support :-)
posted by altolinguistic at 6:56 AM on January 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

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