By Mary Parsons, MS, RD
Q: I would like to know about restaurant food with low sodium. What can I eat?
According to the FDA, over 75% of the sodium in Americans’ diets comes from packaged and restaurant foods. The good news is that more and more restaurants are beginning to step up to change their menu offerings to meet consumer demand for healthier meals, including those with lower sodium, but it can still be a challenge to identify the best restaurant options that will help you adhere to a low-sodium diet. Fortunately, Healthy Dining’s dietitians are here to help you choose the best!
Your first order of business should be to look for your favorite restaurants among our wide range of options on HealthyDiningFinder.com. When you look at a restaurant’s page, all of the menu items featured there are specially selected by our team of dietitians as the all-around healthiest choices that you can order. But specifically for people who are concerned with sodium, we take care to mark your best choices with the “Sodium Savvy” icon. While perusing these options, you also have the opportunity to check the rest of the nutrition information (calories, fat, carbohydrates, and more) to inform your decision.
When you visit restaurants that are not part of the Healthy Dining Finder program, you should still find out whether they offer nutrition information, which is the most reliable way to know the sodium content of your meal. If they don’t have this information available, here are some general tips that you can follow to reduce your sodium intake while dining out:
- Be aware of common high-sodium foods. These include soups, pizza, seasoned rice dishes, cheese, bread, deli meats and other cured meats like bacon. These foods aren’t 100% off limits, but be aware that their sodium counts are often higher than others.
- Also consider the sodium in condiments. Pickles, olives, ketchup, salsa, salad dressings and most sauces, in general, tend to contribute a lot of sodium.
- Make special requests. Most restaurants are more than happy to customize your order to meet your needs. Just a simple request can make a big difference in the amount of sodium you consume, whether it’s for dressing on the side, a half-portion of sauce, or to make your burger bun-less.
- Request no added salt. This special request deserves special attention! It’s a catch-all request to keep your cook from adding any extra salt while cooking your order. The sodium that’s already present in the prepped ingredients will still be there, but this is your opportunity to avoid any extra.
- Round out your meal with a healthy side, like an order of steamed or sautéed vegetables (with a request for no added salt, of course) or fresh fruit. These healthy foods are naturally low in sodium.