Restaurants may not always be aware of the regulations and requirements related to use of these and other health-related terms. Sometimes, restaurants create terms and special menus to promote certain menu items.
Full Question: My husband has been put on a low sodium diet due to congestive heart failure. He’s only 53 years old, and this came on very suddenly. His heart is only pumping at 20 to 25% – so we (I am following the diet with him so that he doesn’t have foods that tempt him around) are following the diet very strictly. We’re striving for only 2000 mg of sodium per day, which equals 600 mg per meal, with 100 to 200 mg left over for a snack or two. The “heart healthy” meals I have found on MANY of the menus are low in fat and carbs but extremely high in sodium! How can this be considered “heart healthy” with so much sodium per serving
A: The Food and Drug Administration regulates health claims like “healthy,” “low fat” and “low sodium,” as well as claims that tie a nutrient (e.g., omega 3s) to a disease state (e.g., decreased risk of coronary heart disease). Restaurants may not always be aware of the regulations and requirements related to use of these and other health-related terms. Sometimes, restaurants create terms and special menus to promote certain menu items.
From a dietitian’s point-of-view, an ideal “heart healthy” meal should be low in total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals (other than sodium). Healthy Dining does not currently have an indicator for “heart healthy” foods; however, we do indicate if a food item meets our “Sodium Savvy” criteria, which means it contains no more than 750 mg of sodium if it’s an entrée or no more than 250 mg if it’s a side dish, appetizer or dessert. We also do not feature entrées that contain more than 25 g fat and 8 g of saturated fat; and side dishes, appetizers and desserts that contain more than 8 grams of fat and 3 grams of saturated fat.
If the nutrition information is available for a restaurant’s menu item, we definitely recommend reviewing it to make sure that you are staying within your target intake for sodium. If the nutrition information isn’t available, here are some tips to use when eating out to limit your sodium:
- Avoid smoked, cured and salted meat, fish and poultry.
- When ordering a salad, request no croutons, cheese, olives, banana peppers, or bacon, all of which can be high in sodium.
- Request fresh steamed vegetables with no added salt.
- Avoid sauces, gravies and dressings or request them on the side and use in small amounts.
- Use low-sodium soy sauce and dressings.