Looks at how you can control how much salt (sodium) you eat when you eat out. Explains what salt does to your body. Lists foods to avoid and foods that are heart-healthy. Offers tips for choosing low-sodium foods at restaurants.
Low-Salt Diets: Eating Out
For many people, eating out is
something they do to relax and socialize. You don't have to give this up when
you are on a low-sodium diet, but it is important to be more careful about what
you order in a restaurant. Sodium isn't just in table salt. You can also find
it in sodium citrate, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and monosodium
glutamate (MSG). Asian foods often have MSG as well as soy sauce, which is also
high in sodium. But with some planning and helpful tips, you can still enjoy eating
out while limiting the sodium in your diet.
Restaurant foods are usually high in
Most restaurants are willing to prepare your food with less
or no sodium, if you ask.
Food can still taste good and be low in
requires extra effort to avoid sodium when you eat out, because you can't
always tell by looking at the menu which items are high in sodium. It often
depends on how the restaurant prepares the meal, what ingredients they use, and
how much sodium they add. Here are some ways to avoid sodium when you dine
Try to choose restaurants where the food is
made to order, instead of choosing fast-food or buffet-style restaurants.
Before you order, ask how the food is prepared and if the restaurant offers
low-sodium menu items. Often you can ask that your meal be prepared with no
Most fast-food restaurants have nutrition
information available, including sodium content. If you do eat at a fast-food
restaurant, ask for the nutrition information. Choose lower-sodium
Ethnic foods, such as Asian or Mexican, often have lots of
sodium. You don't always have to give up these foods, but ask the server to
help you make lower-sodium choices.
When you eat out, try to eat
very low-sodium items the rest of the day. This will help you stay within your
sodium limit for the day.
Learn what food items are okay and which ones to avoid. For
example, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce has more than 1,000 mg of sodium, and 1
teaspoon of salt has about 2,300 mg of sodium. You can use the following list
and bring it with you to the restaurant. You may be able to substitute low-salt
or fresh menu items for those with higher sodium content.
Tips for eating out
Foods to avoid
Instead, choose or ask for ...
Smoked, cured, and salted meat,
fish, and poultry
Fresh, grilled, baked, poached,
or broiled meat, fish, or poultry
Ham, bacon, hot dogs, luncheon
meats, and cheese
Fresh roasted pork, turkey, or
Fresh steamed vegetables with no
added salt. (Assume that cooked vegetables have added salt unless you ask for
them to be prepared without it.)
Condiments, such as pickles,
olives, tartar sauce, and ketchup
Sliced cucumbers, malt vinegar,
or low-sodium ketchup and mustard
Sauces, including soy sauce,
tomato sauce, au jus, and gravy
Low-sodium tomato sauce, olive oil. Or ask for your food to be prepared without sauces, or have the sauces served on the side.
Oil and vinegar, lemon juice, or
Soups and broths
Salads without croutons, bacon,
cheese, or olives
Tomato juice or any drink that contains tomato
juice, such as V-8 or Clamato. This includes alcoholic drinks like Bloody
Orange juice, other citrus
juices, or soft drinks
Fried or seasoned
Steamed plain rice. (Asian
restaurants often add salt to steamed rice. Be sure to ask for steamed rice
without added salt.)
Pasta with tomato
Pasta tossed in olive oil or with
Ice cream, sherbet, frozen yogurt, and angel food cake are
all lower-sodium dessert choices.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.