Reducing sodium while dining 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 cautious about what you order in a restaurant. It requires extra effort to avoid sodium when you eat out, because you can’t always tell by glancing 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 overconsumption of sodium when you dine out. 

1. 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 items.

2. Always taste food before adding salt from the saltshaker. If extra flavor is needed, try adding black pepper or lemon juice. 

3.  Request vegetables with no salt added or fruit as your side item.

4.  Watch out for these food words, such as  pickled, brined, barbecued, cured, smoked, broth, au jus, soy sauce, miso, or teriyaki sauce. These tend to be very high in sodium. Choose items that are steamed, baked, grilled, poached, or roasted, they may have less sodium.

5.  Ask if smaller portions are available; if not, share a meal with a family member or friend, or ask for a to-go box when you order and place half of your meal in the box before eating.

6. Ethnic foods, such as Asian, Chinese, and Mexican, often have lots of sodium. You don’t have to give up these foods but ask the server to help you make lower-sodium choices.

7. 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.

8. Keep takeout and fast food as an occasional treat.

9. The most common salt types are table, kosher, Himalayan, and sea. Salt with coarse or large crystals provides less sodium, per teaspoon of salt, than fine or small crystals. Sodium content can also vary widely by brand.  

Sodium content in 1 teaspoon of four types of salt. • Table Salt: 2,330 mg • Fine Himalayan Pink Salt: 2,200 mg • Fine Sea Salt: 2120 mg • Coarse Kosher Salt: 1,920 mg

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(Shakera Williams, M.P.H. is Assistant Nutrition Extension Agent- FCS for Webster/Claiborne parishes. Contact her at (318) 371-1371.)