By Rachael Derr, RD
Question: I’ve just been diagnosed with high blood pressure. Should I stop eating out at restaurants?
High blood pressure diagnoses have become more and more common, making the condition a growing concern in our country. You are certainly not alone in your diagnosis! Sixty-seven million American adults have high blood pressure, which equates to over 31% of our population. While high blood pressure (or hypertension) itself can be a strain on your health, it can also lead to more severe conditions such as heart attack, stroke, chronic heart failure, and kidney disease, if not treated properly.
Fortunately, there are ways to lower your blood pressure by improving your diet. The good news is that finding the best choices for your diet and lifestyle is easier than ever with a growing number of healthy menu choices and reduced sodium options out there. These healthier menu choices plus small substitutions you can make can help you keep your blood pressure under control while still enjoying eating out at your favorite restaurants your way.
One of the most effective strategies to reducing blood pressure is to follow the DASH diet. If it sounds familiar, you may have heard that it was ranked as the Best Overall Diet in the annual U.S. News & World Report expert panel review more than once. The overall goals of the DASH diet are to reduce sodium intake and increase foods rich in nutrients that help lower blood pressure, such as magnesium, calcium and potassium. It is also a diet that is easy to personalize for your tastes, making it a great long-term strategy to improve your total health.
To achieve these goals, focus on foods like:
- Whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, etc.)
- Fresh fruits and vegetables (a wide variety)
- Lean poultry and fish (turkey, chicken, salmon, etc.)
- Nuts and legumes (beans, peas and lentils)
- Low-fat or fat free dairy in place of full fat varieties
- Mono- and poly- unsaturated fats (avocados, nuts, nut butters, plant based liquid oils, fatty fish, tofu, soybeans and flaxseeds)
You’ll also want to limit sweets and alcohol.
When eating out at restaurants, these tips can help you order the best options for your high blood pressure:
Try foods like:
- Grilled, roasted, broiled menu items
- Fresh fruits and vegetables as sides
- Spices and fresh herbs, which do not contain sodium (basil, garlic, curry powder, etc.)
- Fresh vegetables for pizza and burger toppings
- Vegetarian dishes
- Fresh fruits or sorbets for dessert
Limit or avoid foods that tend to be higher in sodium:
- Meats that are fried, smoked, cured, or processed
- Condiments like mustard, ketchup, pickles, and soy sauce
- Most soups
- Additives like MSG
- Dishes like rice pilaf, casserole-style dishes, charcuterie plates (cheese, cured meats, olives)
Don’t be afraid to:
- Ask for the nutrition information (specifically sodium) for any foods you are unsure about.
- Ask that less or no salt be added to your dish.
- Ask for dressings and sauces on the side to help control the amount of sodium you’ll be ingesting.
- Most importantly… taste your food before you season it!
Don’t let high blood pressure stop you from enjoying dining out with friends and family. With these easy changes, you can manage your health deliciously! Work with your doctor and/or a registered dietitian to stay on track with a diet to lower blood pressure. Healthy Dining’s team of registered dietitians makes it easy with Sodium Savvy menu choices hand-selected to meet strict sodium criteria. Next time you go out to eat, use the personalized search on Healthy Dining Finder to find the perfect Sodium Savvy menu choice for you.