Students select food choices from a school tray line

Slash sodium with speed-scratch, herbs and spices

Reducing sodium starts with identifying where it’s hiding on the school menu.

Struggling to meet the sodium guidelines for your K-12 menu? 

The solution begins with determining an upper limit for sodium on the menu, such as 500 mg. per serving. Then, identify high-sodium foods that push the menu item above your limit.

Consider swapping high-sodium menu items with a speed-scratch version. Speed-scratch cooking is the combination of ready-made or convenience ingredients (speed) with fresh, raw ingredients (scratch) when cooking. 

By switching to speed-scratch, you can maintain or enhance flavors while also slashing sodium. Speed-scratch menu items are readily accepted because of their homemade appearance, and they might save on food costs compared to fully prepared menu items. 

When preparing speed-scratch recipes, consider adding herbs and spices instead of salt. Most herbs and spices contain less than 5 mg. of sodium per serving, while packing a punch of flavor. Herb blends are a great place to start. All-purpose herb seasonings pair well with chicken, beef and pork entrees, as well as rice, noodle and vegetable sides. Garlic and herb seasonings pair well with pizza, pasta, breadsticks and vegetables.

Keep in mind that ground spices and herbs require about one-third as much as whole herbs and spices. For example, 1 Tbsp. of fresh herbs = 1 tsp. of dry herbs. Store them away from moisture such as the dishwasher or sink areas and store away from sunlight in an airtight container.  

If you need inspiration, look to our Great for Schools page on Gordon Experience, where you can find a collection of speed-scratch recipes, a lower sodium item list and many other resources.