A Salty Dog No More


Aside from an occasional bout of arthritis in my lower back, I’m a pretty healthy guy.

But a few weeks ago, I just felt out of sorts. Nothing specific…but a little off my feed, as dairy farmers would say about their cows.  My lifelong mantra has been that we are all responsible for our own salvation so I bought one of those 25-buck blood pressure meters from the drug store and decided to start there. Sure enough my numbers were higher than they should have been, hovering around 145 over 90. (Normal is 120 over 80.)

blood-pressureA call to my best friend and doctor, Michel, confirmed my conclusions and included some recommendations from him.  He put me on some medicine, but he also told me to get more exercise and to cut my sodium.

I already exercise about an hour per day so my prime target became salt.

BUT…. other than an occasional shake on popcorn and my egg-white omelets, I couldn’t recall adding salt to anything in years

I’ve always read food labels because keeping the fat out has been my longtime focus. Now that I’ve moved down a few lines on the nutrition labels, I’m astonished at how much sodium is in just about everything.

Now I know that 2,400 milligrams of sodium daily – the amount in one teaspoon of salt – is the recommended maximum for adults. Someone like me with high blood pressure should eat half that amount.

But I’ve also learned that the average American consumes twice the max! And most is attributable to processed and preserved foods – that is, the stuff in the middle aisles and the deli sections of grocery stores.

Once I recognized how widespread high blood pressure is in our culture, and how many millions of people suffer strokes or heart attacks or die too young because of it, it came to me like an epiphany that I needed to do something.

I called my Head Buyer Larry in the middle of the night – I woke him up – and declared: “We are on a mission! We must seek out sodium-free and low-sodium items in every category and visibly mark them. We must make it easy for people who have high blood pressure, or love someone who does, to cut out the salt.”

We had already done the same for gluten-free items. In fact, we offer more gluten-free products than any other grocery in the Midwest and they’re a breeze to find because of their unique tags.

I put every one of my buyers on a mission to find no- or low-sodium products and, to my amazement, we’ve found hundreds of them ! We’ve got whole lines of soups. We found things in every single category, including lunch meats, and all these hundreds of new products are being marked so shoppers can spot them.

Hiller’s is becoming a sea of low-sodium tags

Sure, I’ve read that some manufacturers are discretely cutting the sodium in their processed foods, like soup, and not telling anyone. They worry people won’t buy low-sodium things because they aren’t jazzed up by all the salt.

I say Horse Pucky ! Food manufacturers have oversalted us for decades. If your life depends on it, you’ll get accustomed to the taste of less salt

I’ve changed my diet and cut the salt.  It’s a gift to myself and those I love. And stocking all these new products – almost a thousand of them – is my gift to you or someone you love who should be cutting salt, too.

sodium-signsLook for the little tags with the slash mark through the salt shakers. All of our lives may depend on it.


A Salty Dog No More — 6 Comments

  1. Thank you for thinking of the tags. I have to admit that would find it hard to remember these different brands when I am shopping – even though I want to try these products. Thanks for all you do to help us.

  2. I think you are adding another notch to your store’s reputation of healthy ideas! We are very conscious of the ingredients in the foods we recommend to our fitness and wellness clients, and a lot of our family and friends fall into the category of people who are possibly at risk.

    When we set out to start our salsa company, the ingredient’s nutrition profile was of utmost priority to ensure we created a product we would feel confident using and recommending. EVERY variety of our Global Warming Salsa is ultra low sodium, gluten free, and contains 100% natural ingredients…no additives, no preservatives. We were very excited to hear you promote another attirbute to your customers, and we are proud to fit into your approach!

  3. Man I love you guys. Of course you had no idea, but I have been spending a small fortune in shipping and handling fees purchasing low-sodium and sodium free products from a “heart healthy” site I found on line. This had been going on for about four years now. Slowly I began to see some of the products popping up on grocery store shelves (soups, catsup, canned tomatoes ect.). But never has one grocer made a concerted effort to target these products until now. Thanks a million. A lot of us owe you our lives 🙂

  4. As a customer of long standing, one of the matters I have had to deal with for myself and my spouse has been sodium in frozen, refriderater and shelf products. I have high blood pressure (under control by medication and self control. My wife is a dialysis patient and controling salt intake helps her keep her consumption of liquids in check.
    Now, with this new effort by Hiller’s, being able to buy foods that are low in sodium will make shopping for many foods, especially canned soups and deli foods far easier. Thank you Jim Hiller!

  5. It’s heartening to know that manufacturers are cutting down on the amount of sodium in prepared foods, but Jim makes a good point. “Recalibrating” our palates to expect (and want) less salt is something that can benefit everyone, not just those with high blood pressure.

    It is my personal belief that Americans need to do the same with sugar. There is an awful lot of sugar hidden in prepared foods. It masquerades under a slew of names that don’t sound anything like “sugar”, including maltodextrin, malt syrup, dextrose, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, to name just a few. There is sugar added to so many products that really don’t need added sugar; even “light” yogurt is loaded with added sugar and one might be shocked by how much sugar is seemingly non-sweet items like salad dressing. Many low-fat products compensate for the lack of fat by adding extra sugar AND salt.

    There’s great information on labels…it pays to read them. Kudos to Hiller’s for making that job a little easier for us.

  6. Outstanding idea – great ‘Mission’. It is difficult to scrutinize small print on packages, besides taking ‘shopping time’. Reduced sodium has recently become a ‘focus’ for both of us (retired persons). Follow-on suggestion; figure out some way to highlight those foods which still have “partially-hydrogenated fats” – maybe just a (subtle) stick-on colored ‘dot’ – near the price tag?. I had thought that, based on all the articles, manufacturers had eliminated them – not so. This could also serve as a subtle hint for manufacturers to ‘get with the program.’ Thank you…

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