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Archive for » April 1st, 2017«

Writer Rachel Khong Is ‘Probably 50 Percent Pho’

At Pho Tan Hoa in San Francisco.

Photo: Sheila McLaughlin

In the coming months, Rachel Khong has not one but two books hitting stores — first, on April 4, All About Eggs, a collaboration with the editors of Lucky Peach (where she worked as the managing and then executive editor for five years); and then, in July, Goodbye, Vitamin, her first novel. She spent the past week, in her home in San Francisco, cooking a Turkish poached-egg dish called çilbir, and eating several servings of chicken katsu and all kinds of pho (even egg-drop soup made with leftover pho broth). Read all about it in this week’s Grub Street Diet.

Thursday, March 23
Thursday starts with me running to my car in my pajamas because I forgot it was street-cleaning day. I’m hoping for a miracle. No miracles today, only heartbreak. I owe the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency $71 and am sad.

Last night, I posted to my @all_about_eggs Instagram account a picture of beautiful, fluffy scrambled eggs, with the caption, “Dreaming of breakfast.” (At one point, while working on the book, I started an all-eggs Instagram account, and now it’s basically my job.) But I do not eat scrambled eggs for breakfast. Instead, I have a roasted Japanese sweet potato — the kind with purple skin and yellow flesh, like the emoji — with butter and flaky salt. I eat it, skin and all. To be clear, I eat these sweet potatoes because I love them, but also because I’m trying to get out of the house to start writing ASAP. “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work” is something Flaubert said. Sometimes, it’s good to think about that while you’re feeling undignified, scarfing down a sweet potato.

At Charlie’s Cafe, my office for the morning, I drink a mug of “Obama blend,” a bean mix of “one-third Kenya, one-third Indonesia, and one-third Kona.” I make pitiful progress on my new long thing (a novel I can’t jinx yet by calling a novel) because it’s hard not to think about my parking ticket or self-worth.

Lunch is at Rintaro, a Japanese izakaya that recently started serving lunch. I get a hojicha. I try my friend Cassandra’s “melon creamy soda,” a drink that’s crazy green and tastes compellingly like candy. We order two teishoku lunches to share: A tuna don with shredded egg that comes with freshly grated wasabi on a shiso leaf; and their pork katsu, which I always get because it’s out-of-control good — layers of pork, breaded and fried, and topped with black-hatch miso sauce, alongside a mound of thinly sliced cabbage and watermelon radish. The side dishes are delightful: miso soup with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms; green onion and vegetably stalks; and a Tokyo turnip-wedge koji pickle; crab and cucumber sunomono; and an innocent little fried smelt that’s the perfect bite.

At home, more work, and its accompanying snacks: first, two tangerines. Then, a couple hours later, Castelvetrano olives and prosciutto draped directly into my mouth. The olives and prosciutto are from Lucca’s Ravioli, an old-timey Italian grocery store in my neighborhood that I particularly love. They sell housemade ravioli, yes, but also fancy tuna and not-fancy wine, obscure pasta shapes, and all manner of cured meat your heart could desire.

My friend Sandra is having a dress pop-up on the other side of town. She’s come from Nairobi, so the least I can do is travel to Presidio Heights. I have a glass of wine there, and ooh and aah over everyone trying out dresses. I can’t buy any because I already own three, including one with eggs on it that I’m planning to wear on my book tour next week. Sandra explains that there’s a feminist message to my dress: There are the eggs and hens, but also roosters, which are decapitated. I love this dress.

Back at home, I drape more prosciutto into my mouth while prepping leftover chicken pho. Yesterday, I made the “Classic Chicken Pho” recipe from Andrea Nguyen’s new pho cookbook, aptly titled The Pho Cookbook. The recipe says it’s eight servings of pho, but it looks like it will be four servings for me. Humans are 60 percent water. I’m probably 50 percent pho.

Friday, March 24
I wake up beside a bodylike mound of books. They’ve replaced my roommate, Eli, who left me for New York on Monday, to work on season two of the podcast Homecoming. (Tony Danza drinks Metamucil, and I endorse Homecoming from Gimlet Media.) It’s a wonderful show! Eli and I just got married at City Hall, so I still feel weird about calling him my “husband.” My training wheels are “spouse.” The judge said, “I now pronounce you spouses.” Anyway, that’s a disclaimer for why I will be the way I will be this week. Not getting a separate bowl for my olive pits, et cetera. Just throw your pits in the same bowl where your olives are hanging out, and save a dish!

It’s raining, which is enough to make me want to stay home this morning. I brew some coffee, and toast a fat slice of Tartine country loaf. I cook a half-recipe of çilbir, a Turkish egg dish the writer Laura Goodman turned me onto, which is now in my regular breakfast rotation. The recipe is in All About Eggs (page 102), so you can make it, too! I’ll tell you how to do it anyway: Basically, you pound a tiny clove of garlic in a mortar with some salt, then mix yogurt into that. Poach two eggs (I do it the Jacques Pépin way). Melt a couple tablespoons of butter with a few shakes of paprika and a pinch of chili flakes. Put the yogurt in a plate, slide the eggs on, drizzle with the hot chili-butter, and garnish with mint leaves, if you have them. On my egg Instagram, I keep using the hashtag #cilbir like it’s going to catch on. Maybe this is how it happens — via Grub Street. The bread is important for sopping up the yogurt mingled with yolk mingled with butter. It’s such a good breakfast! It fuels a solid morning of writing. Then the UPS guy comes while I’m in a phone meeting. It’s boxes of finished copies of All About Eggs, and I’m so happy. Eggstatic even.

I have some chicken-pho broth left, so I make a quick egg-drop soup, loosely based on the stracciatella recipe in All About Eggs: Italian egg-drop soup with spinach and cheese — except with thinly sliced Chinese broccoli instead of spinach, and chicken instead of cheese. It surprises me by being really good. Pho-broth egg-drop soup! You heard it here first, folks. I refrigerate the rest because I have to run out for a meeting at Sightglass Coffee. There, I have some of what they have already brewed: something delicious from Colombia.

Old friends from college are coming over for dinner. I drink some also-old Zinfandel (old vine and old because I opened it Monday!) while cooking a roughly Marcella Hazan–esque chicken cacciatore with capers and olives. I serve it with rice, alongside a green-leaf lettuce and arugula salad with grana padano that was on sale at Lucca’s, and lemony roasted broccoli. Dessert is a blood-orange cake that’s a Paul Bertolli recipe from Cooking by Hand, a perfect cookbook. The recipe intrigued me because it’s called “bitter orange cake,” and involves blending whole blood oranges — peel, pith, and all. “Just how bitter, Paul Bertolli?” I mutter to myself while baking it, all alone at home. Each slice gets served with a compote made of orange peel, sugar, and segments of blood orange — all the syrupy stuff soaks lusciously in. It seems bonkers, but the cake is edible! And not only edible, but a hit! As it turns out, everyone can have this superpower to eat whole oranges disguised as delicious cake.

Over the course of dinner, we somehow get onto the topic of mukbang, the YouTube videos of Korean women eating alone. I guess the idea is, you watch these videos when you’re eating alone, so you feel less alone. After everyone leaves, I watch a few: riveted, aghast, then riveted again.

Saturday, March 25
Breakfast is Sightglass coffee from Rwanda, which is acidic and perfect with leftover cake and compote nuked for 45 seconds in the microwave. The cake might be even better today. Then I head to the Alemany farmers’ market, my favorite farmers’ market in the city because it’s huge and festive and glorious. I try slices of a few different kinds of grapefruits and oranges. Honestly, today I’m here for the butt-shaped kiwis, which I buy from this one farm that seems to only grow kiwis — not all of them butt-shaped. I seek those out.

For lunch, I’m meeting my friend Vicki at Souvla, a Greek spot that does good souvlaki and these fries soaked in chicken fat that I totally forget to order. We split a pork gyro and a lamb gyro — cut them right down their centers with butter knives — a foolhardy but ultimately prudent decision. The pitas are fluffy and perfect, like pot holders but bread. In a good way! We get back in line to get a cup of frozen Greek yogurt with “Cretan honey” and share that, too.

Cut to: the afternoon. Sometimes in the Mission, where I live, there’s a white van parked on 22nd Street that opens its (car) doors to vend snacks, like fruit in quart containers or cut-to-order coconuts. I notice the van’s doors are open and ask for a coconut. Usually, it’s a guy van-manning, but today it’s a lady van-womanning. She has long, bright orange nails. With a cleaver, she hacks the coconut deftly. I’m humbled and charmed. She hands the coconut juice to me in a zip-top baggy with a straw, and the flesh in a separate baggy, mixed with salt, lemon, chili, and hot sauce. The chili-covered coconut pieces are good — weirdly reminiscent of Micheladas.

Dinner is leftovers: stewy chicken, rice, stracciatella. I also steam a bundle of asparagus from the farmers’ market, and season it simply with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. I put a pat of butter on my asparagus and watch it melt. All in all, a wild Saturday night! I eat the asparagus like fries, and wind up eating all of it, also like fries. For dessert, a butt-shaped kiwi. Naturally, it’s juicy.

Sunday, March 26
What would a Californian Grub Street Diet be without avocado toast? My favorite trick is to rub a clove of garlic over the hard toast’s surface, which sucks up the garlic somehow (really scientific terminology I’m using here!). Then I smush avocado on (correct ratio is one avo to one big piece of toast), and drizzle with olive oil, salt, black pepper, and chili flakes. Today, I top the whole thing with a poached egg. It isn’t pretty to eat, but it is good and hearty.

I’m getting my photo taken for this article at Pho Tan Hoa, my regular pho spot in the Tenderloin. You might even call it a pho-to. (Sorry.) I pose with my regular pho order, the No. 12, rare-beef pho, and an iced coffee. I suck down all the condensed coffee, and after the photographer leaves, I eat the room-temperature prop because that’s how my mama raised me.

Lunch is at my friend and former Lucky Peach co-worker Chris Ying’s house. I left the magazine just this past fall, after five years of living and breathing Lucky Peach. The news of its shuttering is something that, yes, I’m feeling pretty emotionally weird about, but that I’ve compartmentalized — just like I’ve compartmentalized the fact we’re all going to die someday. Anyway! Chris has made katsu don! Eggy katsu and katsu with sauce for dipping, perfect donabe-cooked rice, cabbage lightly dressed with Meyer lemon, and miso soup. We wash it all down with rosé. (Inadvertently, I’m having a double-katsu, multi-pho week.) Chris’s daughter Ruby tries to eat my book, a very good sign.

A couple hours later, we’re back together: Aralyn Beaumont (also a friend and former co-worker, also in attendance at lunch), Chris, and I have tickets to a Filipino pop-up — a “kamayan” meal we’ll be eating entirely using our hands. We’re seated at a long table covered in banana leaves. The rice gets placed down the middle, like an enormous line of cocaine for a giant with a car tire–size nostril. The rice line is adorned with bok choy and shrimp and mangoes and chicken thighs. We convey all the food to our mouths using only our hands. The dinner is BYOB and we BYO’ed rosé. My wine glass, which I’ve been pawing at with my food-covered hand, is — not surprisingly — covered in food. Our friendship has been forged in the fire of magazine deadlines. Now, better slept (well, except for Chris, who has a baby), we polish off two bottles and have a good time. Dessert is a pleasant little Manila-mango tartlet with a peanut crust.

Monday, March 27
It’s two regular and orderly butt kiwis for me this morning, then to the café! Eating two butt kiwis is sort of like eating four normal kiwis because you get two for the price of one (not literally; obviously, they’re sold by the pound). My regular method of peeling kiwis is to cut off both ends and run a spoon around the fruit, where the flesh meets the skin. But it’s a challenge when they’re butt shaped. I have to peel them over the sink, but the skin comes off in patches. My spouse typically laughs at the wreckage because it looks like a raccoon got into some trash. That’s generally how I eat things, like a raccoon attacking trash.

I have a cup of black coffee at Borderlands, a café I like for its lack of music, while I type some words. By 11 a.m., I’m hungry. At home, I scarf more snacks: prosciutto and olives.

Guess what lunch is? It’s pho! Back when we were a gang, the San Francisco Lucky Peach staff religiously went out for pho every Friday, which we staunchly still call Pho-riday. We always went to Pho Tan Hoa, and we still go for old times’ sake. Last Friday, Aralyn was vacationing in Thailand, so today is a Monday that’s an honorary Pho-riday. I can’t bring myself to order another beef pho, after the one I ate yesterday: I get seafood, plus a salted plum soda. There’s always a small part of me that wants a No. 41, vermicelli with barbecued pork and nuoc cham, which I could drink daily and never get sick of. So another regular thing is, I force us to share a No. 41. Chris orders it for the table like a dad buying us toys. Our server calls him “big guy.”

I drink a bottle of stout while I’m cooking dinner: fried rice to use up all the languishing things in the fridge. First, I crisp up some garlic and ginger in vegetable oil, so it’s crispy bits and nice-smelling oil. Then, I fry old rice with kale and herbs and two egg whites leftover from making Paul Bertolli’s cake. Last, I fry two eggs in butter. The eggs go on the fried rice, and the garlic-ginger-bits oil goes all over. On the side, some steamed Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce and that same garlic-ginger stuff.

Tuesday, March 28
Breakfast is a regular and orderly piece of toast topped with a very ripe avocado that needed to be eaten, and a cup of Sightglass Rwandan coffee.

I’m meeting my friend Kate for lunch at the Alamo Drafthouse, the Texan import to San Francisco, because we’re also watching Beauty and the Beast. Efficiency! I’m tempted to order a boozy milkshake, but I haven’t done enough work today to deserve it. I definitely deserve a beer, though, so I get a HenHouse Saison to go with a Cobb salad because, as Kate correctly puts it, “All the other salads seem to be missing one thing.” We also share a giant mixing bowl of kimchee-dust popcorn. As for Beauty and the Beast, I’m disappointed they don’t show Gaston eating five dozen eggs (every morning to help him get large). For dessert, a slice of “scone loaf” baked by Aralyn — a Molly Yeh recipe.

Dinner I have to work for: I’m shadowing a class at 18 Reasons called “Poories Punjabi–style curries” because I might be teaching one on eggs. Teachers Simran and Stacie teach us to make poories, magical bread that puffs into balloons when you deep-fry it, and an aloo sabzi (tomatoey potato curry), and chana masala (chickpea curry darkened with steeped tea). At the end of class, we eat all our handiwork, plus wine. Everything is spicy, so I eat lots of it. I realize it’s not a great idea; it’s just, somehow, what happens. For dessert, carrot halwa with ice cream and chai tea.

Now, I’m home, feeling defeated, full, and in mild gastrointestinal pain, nursing a quart container of water. There’s one last butt-shaped kiwi left, and it’s beckoning me to eat it. I’m gonna make some tea, eat my last kiwi. Let’s just call that my nightcap.

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detox diet plan for Navratri

It’s Indian detox time of the year – The Navratri. When it comes to a healthy diet, even experts believe that Indian diet is the best way to go. This is the food that we have grown up eating and, hence, naturally heals us. Therefore, Navratri is the right time to let go off your cravings and watch your health the Indian way. Here we have curated an easy diet plan for you, along with an exercise for the day. This way you will not need to worry how to go about this. Please remember to consume a minimum of two litres water every day.

(Picture Courtesy: Shutterstock Images/ Google Images)

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Fit For Life: Diets I’ve Known, Loved and Hated

Saturday, April 01, 2017

I am always asked my opinion on different meal plans and supplements. Is this good? Should I take this? What do you think about this pill or powder? Or what do you think about this diet? Or this food? Well, let me start by saying a general answer that I give everyone. Do what WORKS best for you!

The “type” of meal plan isn’t the most important factor, it’s how well you are going to adhere to the program that makes the difference. If you go on a program loaded with foods that you don’t like to eat, chances of success are less likely. If you must restrict the foods you love the most, then you will be miserable and will suffer more. Also, you are lessening your chances for success. I have tried several types of eating plans and I will give you my opinion on three different ones that I have tried. I think experience is the best way to decide what you like or works best, so you need to try a few and see what happens, and how you feel.

A Vegan Diet. I just recently dove into a 2-week strict vegan diet. I did this because I saw the “Knives over Forks” documentary, and attended a seminar by Dr. Michael Greger. Both are huge advocates of a plant based nutrition plan, all backed by scientifically proven theories that plants heal. My opinion: I hated it. I am a big meat eater, and this was a huge challenge to me. I went out of town for a few days during this “challenge” and struggled even more. To be a healthy vegan, you need to do a lot of work preparing your meals, and combining the right nutrients to get a complete amino acid profile and get enough protein to heal an active body. I also have a big appetite, and found myself eating a bagel here and there, as well as eating more processed food to fill the void. Not good. To do it right and be healthy, you better do your homework, or you will end up looking like most vegans, soft, pasty, and lethargic. Can it be a cure for illness? Yes, but again, only if you do it correctly. Eating bread and processed foods containing sugar is not the way to go.

The Atkins Diet is also another popular plan used to lose weight. I also do not recommend this diet. It restricts your carb intake to as low as 20 grams a day, and encourages you to eat as much fat and protein as you want. Although you may lose a few pounds, I don’t see eating processed meat such as sausage and salami, and indulging in endless amounts of cheese and bacon – healthy. Although it claims to be “healthy” I have a tough time advocating for such a thing. I tried it years ago, and found myself mentally exhausted and not feeling well. Some swear by it, but from a health and fitness professional standpoint, I don’t think its sustainable.

The Paleo Diet. This was brought to popularity by the cross-fit community a few years back, and its premise is to eat like a caveman, and only live off the land, while eliminating processed, manmade foods. A well-known pioneer named Jack LaLanne established a quote years ago by saying, “If it’s man made…don’t eat it”. Another doctor named Barry Sears came out with the Zone Diet a few years later, and it hits on the same points. Eat quality food, and eliminate processed carbohydrates and dairy products. This plan dictates eating the proper amount of grass fed/free range meats, lots of vegetables, and carbs such as quinoa, sweet potatoes, brown rice, and limited amounts of fruit. It also recommends lots of quality fats such as avocado, nuts, and quality unprocessed oils. The only thing I can’t understand about the Paleo is that it eliminates legumes such as black beans, lentils etc. 

At my gym, we are starting our second annual Paleo challenge at Providence Fit Body Boot Camp, and judging by last year’s success, people are going to get amazing results. After going vegan for two weeks, I am dying to jump in with my clients for the next four weeks.

Except for eating legumes, and the occasional piece of cheese and Greek yogurt, I have been eating what people are now calling Paleo for the last 15 + years. I feel that the quality of your food is the number one factor that determines your health. The next important thing is the amount you eat. I first tell my clients to “clean it up” before you take out the scale and measuring cups. When these vegan researchers are giving meat a bad rap and telling us that we eat too much, they are correct on some levels. Too much meat and protein will tax your body, but if you eat the proper amount and eat high-quality food, I find it hard to go wrong. So, to sum it up, I would say to go for quality first. Stay away from industrial farmed meat products, and processed man made garbage, eat lots of organic vegetables, and watch your body transform, all while improving your overall health. 

Matt Espeut, GoLocal’s Health Lifestyle Contributor has been a personal trainer and health  fitnesss consultant for over 25 years. He is the owner of Fitness Profiles, a one on one, and small group personal training company, as well as Providence Fit Body Boot Camp, located at 1284 North Main St., on the Providence/Pawtucket line. You can reach Matt at (401) 453-3200; on Facebook at “Matt Espeut”, and on Twitter at @MattEspeut. “We’re all in this life together – let’s make it a healthy one!

Here is a list of some of the most obsession worthy health apps.


  • MapMyRun
  • MyFitnessPal
  • JeFit
  • Strava
  • YogaStudio
  • SimplyBeing
  • Fooducate


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America’s Number One Ranked Healthy Diet Has Nothing to Do With Losing Weight

When most people talk about going on a diet, they typically are approaching it with one goal in mind: losing weight. And yet, for the seventh year in a row, the diet that topped U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of the healthiest diets had nothing to do with the scale.

Rather, the DASH Diet—which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension—is all about lowering blood pressure. Given that high blood pressure is linked to heart disease, the number one killer of Americans, it makes sense that this diet would get two thumbs up from the pros.

The DASH Diet was developed through research at the National Institutes of Health, and while that may not be as sexy a source as Goop—and the DASH website would definitely make any Gwyneth fan cringe—there’s actually a lot to say for choosing DASH over the trendier diets. For starters, it’s not that complicated and it’s actually sustainable.

“A lot of people will come to me and say, I want to follow this diet or What do you think about this diet? and usually those trendy diets are not very sustainable for long periods of time,” says Roxana Ehsani, an in-store nutritionist with Giant Food. “They’re very restrictive, so they’re cutting out a lot of food groups and people tend to miss that after a certain period of time.”

In contrast, the DASH Diet allows for you to eat all kinds of foods; you don’t count calories or grams of fat on this diet. Rather, it simply puts an emphasis on fruits and vegetables (the original plan recommends you get in four to six servings of each, daily), whole grains, lean proteins, nuts, and low-fat dairy. 

Little known fact: Giant grocery stores employ ten nutritionists who are available for store walk-throughs and teach in-store classes to help guide customers’ healthy shopping habits. To find out more about what it would take to maintain the DASH Diet, we met up with Ehsani at the Giant at O Street to pick up a week’s haul of DASH-approved groceries. Take a look at the breakdown below.

1. Lean proteins like ground turkey are lower in fat—and especially saturated fats—than you might find in red meats. Ehsani recommends limiting your red meat intake to avoid these extra fats.

2. Chicken is a great source of lean protein—Ehsani recommends looking for pieces that already have the fat (a.k.a. the white parts) trimmed off.

3. Salmon is awesome both for incorporating protein and for adding some Omega-3s into your diet.

4-8. With the DASH Diet’s recommended four to six servings of veggies daily, you’ll need to start getting creative about incorporating them into what you eat. Ehsani suggests tossing stir fry veggies into a skillet for dinner, roasting Brussels sprouts in the oven, and these squash noodles can replace pasta for those days when you just can’t handle another salad.

9. Eggs are another great (and easy!) source of protein.

10. Not only will bananas help you get to the magic number of fruit servings recommended by the DASH Diet, they’re also a great source of potassium, says Ehsani.

11. Avocados and other heathy fats—such as those found in olive oil and nuts—are all fair game on the DASH Diet.

12. Nut butters are a great source of protein and healthy fats. Ehsani says that eating it on a banana makes for a healthy snack.

13. All kinds of fruits are fair game on the DASH Diet. A half a cup of blueberries translates to one serving of fruit, says Ehsani.

14. One culprit of excess sodium in your diet may be salad dressings. Ingredients like lemons can help flavor foods without loading up on the sodium, says Ehsani.

15. Seasoning with spices—as opposed to salt—is a great way to make tasty food that doesn’t overdo it on sodium. Ehsani likes using tumeric. “You can really put it in anything,” she says. “It’s known for reducing inflammation—great for people with arthritis or for muscle recovery if you’re an athlete.”

16. McCormick’s line of “Perfect Pinch” seasonings are a go-to for Ehsani when coaching those on the DASH Diet. “It’s basically just a blend of herbs and spices,” says Ehsani. “It’s just different ways for people to flavor their food without the salt.”

17-18. While you can eat all sorts of fruits to incorporate four to six daily servings into your diet, Ehsani likes Opal apples, which don’t brown the way other varieties tend to do. Oranges are another good option for shaking up your fruit diet.

19. Ehsani recommends olive oil over butter for cooking, as it tends to have less saturated fat.

20. Tomatoes can be cooked or eaten raw, and they also add to your daily intake of fruits and veggies.

21. Beans are also an option under the DASH Diet, but Ehsani likes to look for the cans that have “no salt added,” which can cut down on a lot of unnecessary sodium.

22. Greek yogurt is a go-to for Ehsani because of its high protein content. Toss some berries on top to get in another serving of fruits.

23-24. The DASH Diet recommends three to six servings of nuts per week.

25. While processed cheeses tend to be high in sodium and fat, Ehsani finds Swiss cheese to be a decent option, as this package had 45 mg of sodium per slice, compared to 140 mg in a slice of cheddar off the same shelf.

26-28. When it comes to carbohydrates, the DASH Diet emphasizes whole grains—it suggests you get in three whole grain foods per day. When it comes to bread, Ehsani says, “One thing I like to show people is always picking 100-percent whole wheat. That should always be the first thing that you’re looking at. [Martin’s 100-percent whole wheat bread] is actually kind of funny—it’s potato bread—but it’s one of the lowest sodium options on the shelf. For one slice it has 110 mg, and a lot of other ones have up to 300.”

The top 5 sources of salt in US diet (potato chips didn’t make the list)

You probably know that Americans consume way too much salt, but a new U.S. government report points the finger at some surprising sources of salt in the diet.

The report said the top 5 culprits were:

Surprisingly, potato chips, pretzels and other obviously salty snacks didn’t make it into the top five, though they did ring in at number 7.

“Most Americans are consuming too much salt and it’s coming from a lot of commonly consumed foods — about 25 foods contribute the majority of salt,” said lead researcher Zerleen Quader. She’s an analyst from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

10 sneaky sources of too much salt in your diet

10 sneaky sources of too much salt in your diet

Knowing which foods contribute the most salt is important for reducing your salt intake, she said.

Sodium is an essential mineral that helps the body maintain fluid balance, according to the American Heart Association. But, too much in the diet increases the risk for high blood pressure, which in turn boosts the risk for heart attack and stroke. Table salt contains about 40 percent sodium. One teaspoon of table salt has 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium, which is the maximum amount recommended by health experts.

The new CDC report found that in 2013-2014, Americans consumed about 3,400 mg of salt daily. That far exceeds the recommended amount, and is more than double the American Heart Association’s “ideal” intake of 1,500 mg daily.

And, clearly, all that salt doesn’t come from the salt shaker. Most comes from packaged, processed and restaurant foods, the report said.

Many of these foods contain moderate amounts of salt, but are eaten all day long, Quader said. It’s not necessarily that foods such as bread are high in salt, but eating several slices a day quickly adds to the total amount of salt you consume.

One way to reduce salt is to pay attention to food labels when shopping and choose the lowest salt option, Quader suggested.

“When cooking at home, use fresh herbs and other substitutes for salt. When eating out, you can ask for meals with lower salt,” she added.

Quader said the food industry can help by lowering the amount of salt it adds to its products. Gradually reducing salt in foods can help prevent high blood pressure (“hypertension”) and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and won’t even be noticed by consumers, she said.

The CDC researchers found that 44 percent of the salt people eat comes from just 10 foods. These include bread made with yeast, pizza, sandwiches, cold cuts and cured meats, soups, burritos and tacos, salted snacks, chicken, cheese, eggs and omelets.

Seventy percent of salt in the diet is from 25 foods, the report said. Some of the foods included in the top 25 are bacon, salad dressing, French fries and cereal, the researchers found.

In addition, 61 percent of the salt consumed daily comes from store-prepared foods and restaurant meals. Restaurants have the saltiest foods, Quader said.

Processed foods not only raise blood pressure, but may also increase the risk for cancer, one nutritionist said.

Samantha Heller is a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center in New York City.

“Processed meats such as bologna, ham, bacon and sausage, and hot dogs have been classified as carcinogens by the World Health Organization,” Heller said.

In addition, these and other highly processed foods are huge contributors to the excess salt in the Western diet.

“Parents need to understand that feeding hot dogs, fries, and ham and cheese sandwiches to their kids (and themselves) is significantly increasing their risk for certain cancers, hypertension and heart disease,” Heller said.

Lowering salt in your diet is “as simple and as difficult as cooking at home and using fresh ingredients, as often as possible,” she suggested.

“This can save money and time in the long run, and certainly is better for our health,” Heller said. “It may take some time to re-pattern your shopping and eating habits, but your health is worth it.”

The report was published March 31 in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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