Blog · Nutrition

How to season your summer

Grilled BBQ chicken or hamburgers? I can’t decide which is my favorite summer picnic food. I just asked Eve which she prefers and now she keeps telling me that she wants ham. Right now. Not exactly what I was going for, but OK. I gave her carrots. She said, “I hungry. I need ham.” Kids.

I took the girls to Trader Joe’s this week and Eve apparently thought the guy who cashed us out looked like one of Mark’s friends. (There was no actual resemblance, however.) The conversation when we got to the car went something like this:

Eve: I saw JJ!
Me: That wasn’t JJ, hunny.
Eve: You’re something else, Mommy.

Something else? Seriously?

But back to food…

Since Mark and I started cooking sous vide, our summer food has been completely transformed. We haven’t used our grill to cook hamburgers or chicken since. We place the food in the water bath where it cooks to the perfect temperature and finish it off on the grill for that delicious char we love so much. Our food has never tasted better or been so consistently amazing. I will never go back.

Aside from actually cooking meat, I sometimes experiment with how to season it. Soaking chicken in a salt water solution, or injecting it with one, helps it stay super moist when you bake it. It’s a go-to trick, for sure. Using spice rubs also produces great results. I use a spice rub whenever I cook chicken breasts.

The only problem with this is the salt. Granted, when you cook for yourself you can drastically reduce the amount of sodium in your food, and sometimes I try. But for people who need to be really careful about the amount of sodium they eat (high blood pressure, anyone?), this can still be a challenge. I confess that I put salt in almost everything.

The American Heart Association currently recommends that adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams (mgs) of sodium each day, with an ideal cap being more like 1,500 mgs. Because salt is such a great flavor enhancer and preservative, it is found in almost every processed and pre-packaged food. If you primarily eat these foods or if you eat out at restaurants a lot, then you are most definitely eating more sodium than is good for your heart.

Are you the type of person who always puts a salt shaker on the dinner table? Do you habitually sprinkle salt all over your food before you begin to eat? We can change this! The trick is to season your food so it tastes delicious without the salt.

A few months back I was bargain hunting at a local thrift store for a pair of sneakers for the girls. I just can’t bring myself to pay full price for something they’ll grow out of so quickly. Since I was already there, I decided to look at the books. On this particular day, I struck gold and bought Basic Nutrition & Diet Therapy for a whopping $2. Woot!

This book contains several appendixes, including a whole section on salt-free seasoning. In the spirit of enjoying delicious and healthy summer food, I wanted to share their suggestions with you.

Suggestions for Salt-Free Seasoning

Taken from Basic Nutrition & Diet Therapy


Breaded, battered fillets
Dry mustard, onion, oregano, basil, garlic, thyme

Broiled steaks or fillets
Chili or curry powder, tarragon

Fillets in butter sauce
Thyme, chervil, dill, fennel

Fish soup
Italian seasoning, bay leaf, thyme, tarragon

Fish cakes
Tarragon, savory, dry mustard, white pepper, red pepper, oregano


Swiss steak
Rosemary, black pepper, bay leaf, thyme, clove

Roast beef
Basil, oregano, bay leaf, nutmeg, tarragon, marjoram

Garlic, thyme, basil, oregano, onion, black pepper, dry mustard

Beef stroganoff
Red pepper, onion, garlic, nutmeg, curry powder


Fried chicken
Basil, oregano, garlic, onion, dill, sesame seed, nutmeg

Roast chicken or turkey
Ginger, garlic, onion, thyme, tarragon

Chicken croquettes
Dill, curry, chili, cumin, tarragon, oregano

Veal patties
Italian seasoning, tarragon, dill, onion, sesame seeds

BBQ chicken
Garlic, dry mustard, clove, allspice, basil oregano


Bay leaf, thyme, red pepper, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, dry mustard, chili powder

Chervil, onion, bay leaf, thyme, nutmeg, tarragon

Dry mustard, ginger, garlic, marjoram, thyme, bay leaf

White pepper, dry mustard, curry powder, dill, onion, paprika, tarragon, thyme


Thyme, savory, ginger, clove, white pepper, allspice

Clam chowder
Basil, oregano, nutmeg, white pepper, thyme, garlic powder

Ginger, oregano, thyme, tarragon, bay leaf, black pepper, chili powder

Curry, caraway, marjoram, garlic, cloves

Bay leaf, thyme, Italian seasoning, oregano, onion, nutmeg

Italian seasoning, paprika, caraway, rosemary, thyme, fennel


Curry or chili powder, Italian seasoning, thyme, tarragon

Dill, caraway, poppy seeds, dry mustard, ginger

Fish or seafood
Dill, tarragon, ginger, dry mustard, red pepper, onion, garlic

Dill, basil, thyme, oregano, dry mustard, garlic

Chili powder, curry, dry mustard, onion


Baked beans
Dry mustard, chili powder, clove, onion, ginger

Rice and vegetables
Curry, thyme, onion, paprika, rosemary, garlic, ginger

Spanish rice
Cumin, oregano, basil, Italian seasoning

Italian seasoning, nutmeg, oregano, basil, red pepper, tarragon

Rice Pilaf
Dill, thyme, savory, black pepper


Ginger, sesame seeds, basil, onion

Italian seasoning, marjoram, basil, nutmeg, onion, sesame seeds

Caraway, onion, nutmeg, allspice, clove

Ginger, nutmeg, onion, dill

Dry mustard, basil, paprika, onion

Oregano, chili powder, dill, onion

Savory, thyme, nutmeg, garlic, onion

Salt-Free Seasoning
Click here to download a printable copy (PDF)

Simple Seasonings

Whew! That covers a lot of foods and a variety of seasonings. However, I realize this kind of cooking isn’t for everyone. If you just want to keep it simple, use Nutrition Diva Monica Reinagel’s suggestion for flavorful cooking with only ten spices. Sounds simple enough to me!

infographic - 10 spices

Pass the salt, please!

I’m going to start experimenting with some of these flavors and work toward reducing the salt I add to my cooking. In fact, I added no salt to the chicken soup I made this week (however, I did inject the chicken with brine the day before when I cooked that part of the meal). I seasoned my soup with cayenne pepper, ginger, allspice, oregano, and parsley. It was yum!

chicken soup
Salt-free chicken soup

Experimenting with these different flavors is going to be fun, but it will also be challenging. Are you up for the challenge too? Perhaps we could swap recipes!

Will you pass the salt? Or pass on the salt?

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