Just about everyone eats ramen noodles. Cellophane packages of precooked, dried noodles are a quick favorite in college dorms, cafeterias and among those cooking for just one.
Quick they may be, but low in sodium they are not! We surveyed several brands, available at both regular grocery stores and Asian specialty stores. The average package of ramen noodles varied between 1,200 and 4,000 milligrams of sodium per serving. That’s double a day’s worth of salt in one meal! All that salt will strain your heart and kidneys.
If you eat packaged ramen, there are ways you can cut the sodium for better health. Avoid the ramen that comes in a cup, because you cannot portion out the seasoning yourself. Instead, use noodles in a cellophane package with a separate seasoning packet. Try using only ¼ teaspoon of the seasoning packet in your soup, or skip it entirely. Add some vegetables and protein to pump the flavor, and you have a quick meal for one or two. Try these tricks in some of the recipes below.
Ramen noodle soup
2 cups water
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
1 package ramen noodles
½ teaspoon ramen seasoning from packet
3 ounces diced tofu, canned shrimp, or leftover meat, fish or chicken
1 green onion, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon sesame oil (or hot chili oil or hot sesame oil)
Bring water to a boil, add vegetables, ramen noodles and seasoning. When cooked to desired texture, remove from heat. Add tofu, green onion and sesame oil. If using canned shrimp instead of tofu, rinse before adding. Or use any leftover cooked meat, sliced thinly. Try adding an egg. While the water is boiling, slowly pour in a raw, scrambled egg. Keep stirring until the egg is fully incorporated.
Calories: 312, Carbohydrates: 43 grams, Protein: 12 grams, Fat: 11 grams, Sodium: 470 milligrams
Chinese chicken salad
2 chicken breasts, boiled and shredded or finely chopped
1 head lettuce, washed and thinly sliced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
¼ cup toasted slivered almonds
1 package ramen noodles
¼ cup sugar
½ cup unseasoned rice vinegar (seasoned rice vinegar is high in sugar and sodium!)
¼ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2 teaspoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
¼ cup vegetable oil
Mix together salad ingredients. Whisk together dressing ingredients and add to salad right before serving. Serves 6.
Calories: 301, Carbohydrates: 25 grams, Protein: 13 grams, Fat: 17 grams, Sodium: 105 milligrams
Ramen snack mix
1 package of ramen noodles, crushed
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup dried apricots, finely chopped
¼ cup slivered almonds
Toast the crushed noodles in a fry pan over medium heat until lightly browned. Add remaining ingredients, or your choice of dried fruit. You can add ¼ cup chocolate chips for a touch of sweetness. Serves 4.
Calories: 310, Carbohydrates: 54 grams, Protein: 6 grams, Fat: 8 grams, Sodium: 85 milligrams
The information in this column is meant for people who want to keep their kidneys healthy and blood pressure down by following a low-sodium diet. In most cases, except for dialysis patients, a diet high in potassium is thought to help lower high blood pressure. These recipes are not intended for people on dialysis without the supervision of a registered dietitian.
Contributor Katy Wilkens manages nutrition and fitness programs at Northwest Kidney Centers. She is recipient of the Susan Knapp Excellence in Education Award from the National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition. Katy is a Registered Dietitian who holds a Master of Science degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington. See more of her recipes at www.nwkidney.org.