Following a low-sodium diet can sometimes feel restrictive. Dining out is fun and pleasurable; don't think you need to give that up when watching your sodium. You will need to be wise about the places where you eat and the foods you choose, but making healthy choices can be easy with a little know-how.
Fast Food Meals
If you're watching your sodium intake, a trip to a fast food restaurant is not your best choice. According to the website HelpGuide.org, an analysis of fast food restaurants found that 57 percent of the meals analyzed exceed the daily recommendations of 1,500 mg of sodium per day. However, if you must eat at a fast food restaurant, you can cut the salt. Always special-order your items. For example, ask for french fries without salt or a main dish to be served with the sauce on the side. You can also ask that your food be served without condiments, which can pile on extra sodium. Finally, be sure to get a low-sodium dressing such as oil and vinegar when you order a salad, and have it served on the side.
If the restaurant you're eating at has a salad bar, opt for this over a traditional menu item. A salad bar allows you to control what you are eating, which means you can limit your sodium intake. When grazing on the salad bar, choose fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid pre-made salads, such as macaroni salad. High sodium culprits such as olives, cold cuts, pepperoni, croutons, seeds and pickles should also be avoided. Stick with a leafy green salad topped with fresh vegetables and a low-sodium salad dressing. Most vinegar-based dressings are low sodium, so choose those over a creamy or even a low-fat dressing.
Out For Pizza
What's a Friday night without pizza? You too can enjoy a slice of your favorite pizza without sacrificing your low-sodium diet. Choose a pizza that has a small amount of sauce and ask the restaurant to use part-skim mozzarella instead of whole milk cheese, if possible. For toppings, choose vegetables and avoid salty options such as sausage, pepperoni, anchovies and olives.
When perusing the menu at a restaurant, you can look for certain buzz words pertaining to how an item is cooked that can give you an idea on how much sodium it contains. Look for meats that are grilled, poached or broiled. If the item is served with a sauce, ask what the sauce is made of and if you can have it on the side. If a sauce contains soy, gravy, au jus or another kind of broth, it is most likely high in sodium. Having a sauce served on the side allows you to portion out the amount you will eat.
Your selection of appetizers and desserts also counts toward sodium intake. For an appetizer, always lean toward something with fresh fruit or vegetables. Avoid fried items or those with a lot of cheese or sauces. Believe it or not, dessert can also contain a large amount of sodium. Choose sherbet, sorbets, custard, tarts or sponge cake over pies, pastries and cakes.
It might seem like no possible way exists to limit the sodium from a Chinese restaurant, but you can figure out a way to eat a lower-sodium meal. Always get your meal steamed. Most Chinese restaurants can steam almost all of their entrees. Choose poultry, soy or vegetable dishes over beef or eggs. Skip the sauce or ask for yours on the side and stick with sweet and sour, chili or garlic sauce, as these are the lowest-sodium options.
- Help Guide.org: Healthy Fast Food -- Tips for Making Healthier Fast Food Choices
- Heart Failure Society of America; "How to Follow a Low Sodium Diet"; 2006
- American Heart Association: Salty Six - Common Foods Loaded with Excess Sodium
- Low Salt Foods.com; "Dining Out -- Best Menu Choices"; August 2010