10 Ways to Shake the Salt Habit When Dining Out

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Sodium is the main ingredient in salt. When you eat at home, it can be easy to lower the amount of sodium in the food that you prepare. Using nutritious ingredients, spices and herbs can go a long way to help you lower the amount of sodium you eat at home. But it can be much harder when you eat restaurant food. Read on for 10 tips on how to help you make lower sodium choices when dining out.

Sodium – the hidden ingredient

Restaurant food often has high amounts of sodium. In fact, over 75 percent of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods such as cheese, deli meats, pizza, sauces and soups. All of these foods are often offered in restaurants, fast food chains and take-out food.

Why do we want to reduce the amount of sodium we eat?

We all need some sodium, but most of us eat about 3400 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. This is more than double the amount of sodium we need.

  • Healthy adults only need 1500 mg of sodium per day.
  • Healthy children need only 1000 to 1500 mg of sodium per day.

Eating too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. Eating less sodium can help you and your family stay healthy and feel your best. People with health problems may need to aim for lower sodium intakes and should follow the advice of their doctor.

How to pass on the salt when dining out

Here are some simple tips to help you limit the amount of sodium make healthy choices when dining out:

  1. Less is more. Eat out less often and cook at home when you can, using little or no salt.
  2. Find the best menu choices. Check the nutrition information of menu items before you order and choose foods with less sodium. This information may be in a poster or pamphlet at the restaurant or on the restaurant’s website. 
  3. You can ask. Don’t be afraid to ask your server questions about how the food is prepared and if they can make substitutions so that your dish has less added salt. For example, order your meat, poultry or fish baked, broiled, poached, roasted or grilled with no salt or sauces that have salt. You can also ask for your vegetables steamed with no added salt. Restaurants want to please their customers so that they will visit again. 
  4. Get it "on the side." Ask for gravy, sauces and salad dressings “on the side” and use only small amounts.
  5. Look for hidden sodium. Words like marinated, pickled, smoked, breaded, brined, au jus, in broth or teriyaki may mean your dish has lots of salt. 
  6. The extras count. Condiments such as ketchup, relish, soy sauce and dressings are high in sodium. Ask for them on the side so you can control how much you add to your dish.
  7. Pass on the salt shaker. Don’t add any salt at the table. And ask your server if your meal can be made with no extra salt added in the kitchen. Flavour your food with lemon or pepper instead of adding salt, sauces or gravy.
  8. Share your food. Order smaller portions or share with someone. Or take half of your meal home. You will cut the sodium, calories and fat in half.
  9. Balance your day. If you eat a high sodium restaurant meal during the day, make sure you eat a lower sodium meal at home.

10. Try these easy ways to cut back on sodium when you eat out:

If you are eating… Choose this… Instead of…
North American food
  • lettuce, onions or tomatoes on burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches

  • grilled or roasted chicken sandwich

  • salad with dressing on the side, or a baked potato

  • cheese, ketchup, mustard or pickles on burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches

  • chicken wings or chicken fingers

  • French fries or fried onion rings

Chinese food
  • steamed rice, steamed buns or dim sum rice noodle rolls served with sodium-reduced soy sauce on the side
  • stir-fry vegetables with garlic
  • steamed fish
  • wonton noodles or rice noodles
  • fried rice or dim sum appetizers served in soy, hoisin, fish or black bean sauces
  • stir-fry vegetables in oyster sauce
  • BBQ pork or duck
  • chow mein or fried rice noodles
 Indian food
  • plain rice
  • roti or chapatti
  • tandoori dishes
  • pilau
  • naan or parantha
  • curry dishes or biryani
 Italian food
  • grilled fish, meat or poultry
  • pasta in garlic and olive oil
  • pizza with vegetable toppings
  • lasagna or parmigiana dishes
  • pasta in tomato or marinara sauce
  • pizza with bacon, extra cheese or pepperoni

More information about sodium:

Get the scoop on salt

Cut out the Salt

Top 10 lower sodium choices


Last Update – March 21, 2019

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