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When it comes to food, my parents like to salt it a lot more than I do. Besides tasting bad (in my opinion, at least), the salt amount is unhealty and, according to my calculations, about twice the 5 gram limit per day recommended by the WHO. I've asked them politely to salt less, but after saying "Ok", they continue just as before. I've asked them two or three times in total to no avail, and don't want to continue nagging them about it.

When I cook, which I do about half the time, I salt according to my taste, and when we eat they just salt the food on their own plate more without anyone making a fuss about it. It works just fine for everyone. How can I convince them to salt less, too?

Do not answer with any of the following answers, please

"Just ask them to do it"

I've tried, it simply doesn't help.

"Cook your own food"

I do rather often, but sometimes I can't. Besides, I can't refuse to eat their food without offending them, which I preferably would avoid.

"Don't be so picky"

I'd prefer to avoid eating food which tastes bad and is unhealthy for several more years.

"Move out"

I'm 16.

Any ideas or suggestions?

  • Asking parents "2 or 3 times" to use less salt is not nagging. Asking multiple times while they are cooking would be nagging, and that is probably what is necessary. – Gorchestopher H May 17 '16 at 11:17
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You answer your own question in the prohibitions you put on the acceptable answers.

If someone is doing something that you don't like there are only a few solution.

  1. Ask them to stop
  2. Do it yourself (cook for yourself or move out)
  3. Accept it

There aren't really any other choices.

What you need to do is work on #1 more.

The only way to resolve an issue it to discuss it. Try finding more ways to discuss it. Talk with them about how your tastes are different and you don't like the flavor of so much salt. Bring up your concerns about the health aspect of salt. Ask ti be involved in the cooking process, don't make it "you vs me" but an "us" discussion.

  • Great answer. I see you point out she needs to work on #1. I'd like to add that according to her post she needs to work on #3 as well. If she starts from the idea of accepting the way things are there is less stress and tension in pursing option 1. In this way it turns from a me vs you to an us problem. – Adam Heeg May 18 '16 at 1:40
  • I'd think this would be a fairly easy one to "negotiate", as the parents can always add salt to the food on their own plates after it's divided up. If the problem was something like, "my parents love chicken and I hate it", it's not as easy to resolve, because what are they going to, make one dinner for you and another for themselves? I'd think this is mostly a matter of just pointing out how easy the problem is to solve. OP says they say "ok", so it's not like they're saying, "no you stupid child, salt is good for you". They just forget. – Jay May 19 '16 at 22:00
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You've tried already to ask and your parents have said that they are willing to accommodate you, but they continue to salt according to their taste. I have two suggestions.

  1. Be specific about the amount of salt. So instead of "can you use less salt?", try something more like "can you use half the amount of salt that the recipe calls for?" Because maybe they are using less salt, but not enough less for your tastes. Or alternatively, "could you use no salt, and we'll just add what we like afterwards?" And, as someone mentioned, the best time to do this is while they are cooking, sometime before they put the salt in.

  2. Use herbs. The older one gets, the harder it is to taste. Adding salt is (pardon me for being blunt) an unimaginative means of adding 'big' flavor to food. It is cheap and easy to come by and no one feels like it is terribly exotic these days, so it is a habitual additive that makes us old folks feel like we're eating food instead of blah. In order to give food that big flavor without using salt, try convincing your parents to substitute in herbs instead. This worked for me when I had to cut salt out of my diet for a while. Basil and rosemary were two of my favorites for this purpose although garlic, cumin, mint, oregano, and paprika were also good, depending on what I was eating. Vinegars and olives can also add a really nice savory flavor if that's what you're craving.

  • +1 for the herbs!!! Also, for tips what to use instead of salt, pay a visit to seasoned advice. – Layna May 20 '16 at 11:43
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    Here's the link to Seasoned Advice. – Kit Z. Fox May 20 '16 at 13:58
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You're asking your parents to do something quite easy in theory, yet very difficult in practice: To cook the food in a way that tastes wrong to them.

As you've discovered, salt and the enhanced flavors it gives are habit-forming. To your parents, "unsalted" food tastes bland and bad, simply because it doesn't meet their expectations of the flavors.

When you asked them and they said "Ok", it's likely that they didn't continue as before, but made an effort to add the minimum salt for a good flavor... which to you tastes the same as before. Your reaction may have discouraged them from trying more.

Trying to wean your parents off of salt is at best a multi-year project. Only a health scare and doctor's warning will speed that up, so best forget about it.

Instead, try to increase their awareness a bit. Not by preaching about it, but rather discussing experiences, tasting different foods, even cooking together occasionally. If your parents cooking style allows, you could also ask that they put part of the food (especially sauces) aside for you before they bring it to taste.

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I would address this the same way I would address this with a child (even though it's the reverse here). Sit down, have a conversation, where you discuss with them your feelings, why you want what you want, ask them why they do what they do, and then see if you can find a middle ground.

After all, your solution (salt less in the cooked food then individual salt to taste) seems eminently reasonable, though I don't know the specifics. Why won't they agree to that? Find out the reason, and try to approach it non-judgmentally and non-argumentatively. Just like your parents should take you seriously when trying to find out why you want/choose to do something they would like you not to do, do the same for them.

And when you explain your side of things to them, I strongly suggest sticking to your preferences and health only, and not suggesting they cut back on their own; might be appropriate also, might not be, but better left for another time. You'll get more resistance if they think you're trying to tell them how to live, same as you'd resist them if they were telling you how to live.

Once you understand why they salt the food so much (and why they won't stop), and they understand why you want them to salt it less, perhaps you'll both find a solution.

Perhaps that solution is cooking food that doesn't require so much salt (Curry, Spaghetti, things with strongly flavored sauces for example). Perhaps the solution is changing some food to have less salt and not others. Perhaps it's changing to a different kind of salt - Koshering salt you can usually use substantially less (same volume, but bigger crystals means much less actual salt by weight), for example, and still have the taste impact.

And perhaps in some cases they have reasons for using salt the way they do. In the culinary world, salt has some very useful effects that are important for certain dishes. Well salted eggplant or zucchini, for example, is important when baking in order to draw the water out (the salt can be removed afterwards with a towel, in some cases). Salting a steak before cooking is important if you like a crispy skin on it. There might still be a middle ground (where some, but less, salt is used, or again koshering salt or similar large crystal salt), or you might be able to stomach more salt on things it's needed on if you get less on others - who knows. But you'll never know unless you talk about it and find out their reasoning.


Finally, if you do have a long conversation about it, it may well stick in their heads more effectively; perhaps the issue here is simply memory and old habits. Include, perhaps, a discussion of what they can do to remember to include less salt. Perhaps they salt by the 'pinch' method or use a shaker; perhaps they could switch to using teaspoons and measure it properly. Try to think of a few suggestions along these lines that are actionable (i.e., things they can specifically do, not just general opinions). This sort of thing is very useful in the business world once you get there, as well; learning how to not only convince people to do what you want them to, but learning how to get them to do it as well, and being action-oriented.

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