Q. My mother was just put on a restricted sodium diet (2 grams per day). How can I add flavor to the foods I prepare for her without using sodium-laden ingredients like prepared marinara sauce or marinated artichoke hearts?
A. The good news is that 2 grams (or 2,000 mg) per day is a fair amount of sodium, so this shouldn't be a horribly bland diet. But you're on the right track: Processed and prepared foods (such as canned vegetables, soups, sauces, and mixes as well as crackers and chips) are the primary source of sodium in most people's diets. Look for the low-sodium options of these items whenever possible. You can always add a little salt to bring up the flavor--you'll still be adding a lot less sodium than you'd get from the full-sodium versions.
Older people often have a reduced sense of taste and need more salt in order to feel that the food is properly seasoned. You might want to arm your mom with a low-sodium salt alternative to use at the table. Salt alternatives containing potassium chloride taste salty but are low in sodium. Look for Also Salt, or NuSalt, two brands which blend potassium chloride with other natural ingredients to improve the flavor.
Things that taste sour, like vinegar and lemon juice stimulate some of the same sensory receptors as salt. You could try sprinkling powdered lemon juice (such as TrueLemon) on foods. There are also no-salt seasoning blends (like Mrs. Dash) which add flavor with no sodium.