Low Sodium Diet Restaurant Choices

If you’re dining somewhere without the benefit of pre-screened Sodium Savvy options, you can still take a strategic approach to reduce the sodium level of your meal.

Healthy Food

By Mary Parsons, MS, RD

Q: Our family is really looking forward to celebrating Father’s Day this year. We’d like to take Dad out to eat, but his doctor has recommended he limit sodium in his diet. What are the best choices for a low-sodium diet at restaurants?

A: typical low-sodium diet that a doctor or registered dietitian might prescribe is a “2g Na” diet, in which the goal is to keep your total sodium intake for the day under 2 grams (the same as 2000 milligrams, which is the unit listed on nutrition labels). If you think about it, this is only 300 mg less than what is recommended for the general public but still more than 1000 mg below the intake of the average American. Keeping sodium intake below this level can be a feat, especially when dining out. While restaurants are making great strides to voluntarily reduce sodium on the menu, many restaurant foods are often much higher in sodium than you might expect, so it’s important for Dad to pay special attention to the nutrition information.

When dining out, our first recommendation is to search for Sodium Savvy choices near you on HealthyDiningFinder.com. If your Dad’s favorite restaurant doesn’t yet offer Sodium Savvy choices, follow these tips to help reduce the sodium level of your meal:

  • Ask for nutrition information – Many restaurants now have at least some nutrition information available on site or online to help guests make more informed choices. Dad can take a quick look at the numbers to find lower-sodium dishes that fit into his diet.
  • Request no added salt – While some pre-made ingredients are already salted or contain some high sodium ingredients, this simple request will prevent the chef from sprinkling extra salt on the meal during preparation.
  • Ask for sauces and dressings on the side – This puts the control in your hands! Sauces and dressings are often sneaky sources of sodium. Asking for them on the side allows Dad to add them as needed.
  • Skip or limit higher-sodium ingredients – Dietitians consistently recognize certain foods as high-sodium items in restaurants. These include: soups, cheese, deli meats, rice pilafs, and even bread! Dad may want to steer clear of the sub sandwich and soup sides for his Father’s Day meal.

Have no fear! Your family can still find plenty of low-sodium choices at restaurants for the big Father’s Day celebration.