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City's shaking salt out of diets

Cooks in San Antonio reducing salt in dishes

SAN ANTONIO – The city's efforts to reduce the amount of sugary drinks is well underway, but now it's taking on a new culinary culprit: salt.

The funny thing is in some areas, the reduction of sodium in city-bought meals is already underway, but no one has noticed.

In restaurants or cafeterias, cooks in San Antonio are taking heed of the better nutritional guidelines, reducing salt in their dishes and reducing the health risks that go with it.

"In 2014, it was 5.7. In the second year, which was 2015, it was another 8.3," said Rick Aleman, of Selrico Services. "So about 14 percent in the first two years of sodium reduction."

Aleman said his pre-K and Meals on Wheels dishes, for example, were quietly changed. Funny thing is, "They didn't even notice it. No, they never noticed it."

"In fact, Selrico's has been so successful in its program, Metro Health wants to take it to the next level. It's applying for a $2 million grant that will allow them to infiltrate cafeterias at workplaces and hospitals, for example, and reduce the sodium there, too.

The grant request went before City Council Thursday.

"People are really getting two to three times more sodium that they are consuming, and that is leading to 90 percent of Americans having hypertension," Metro Health Nutrition Coordinator Ellen Spitsen said.

The best way to fix that is to fix the place where so much of our food is made: workplace cafeteria kitchens.

"It's not the salt that we put on our food, the salt is already in there from that can or the premade product. It's not something that the consumer can take out," Spitsen said.

For example of how it's done, Selrico kitchens still serve cheese sauce with their meals, but they've reconfigured the recipe to reduce the salt content by 60 percent. And again, the meal is the same and no one noticed a taste difference.