With restaurant meals and processed foods growing in popularity, the low-sodium diet can often be a hard one to grasp. Many of us are consuming more sodium than ever even if we never use a saltshaker.
Eating out makes tracking our food intake more difficult because it’s hard to know how foods were prepared. Fast food and fast-casual restaurants have little control over what’s in the food they serve because they simply assemble it rather than cook it from scratch, making it harder to request less sodium. One would have to check the website or ask for a brochure to find lower sodium options.
Asian restaurants like Japanese, Thai, and Chinese also tend to serve high-sodium cuisine, since they use lots of sauces, chicken stock, and soups. Likewise, Italian restaurants often rely on high-sodium canned tomato products for their red sauces and use plenty of sodium-laden cheese.
Here are some tips to trim the sodium when eating at your favorite restaurants.
- Ask lots of questions to learn as much as you can about the preparation of each food. Ask about spices, rubs, marinades, and finishing sauces, all of which can be loaded with sodium.
- Frequent locally owned restaurants where most foods are cooked to order. It may be easier for such restaurants to accommodate requests for less salt.
- Skip the sauce on your entree, or ask that it be served on the side. For taste without all the sodium, just dip your fork into the sauce, and then use it to spear your food. (This helps control calories and fat as well as sodium.)
- Salsa and ketchup may be low in calories and fat but high in sodium, so use them sparingly.
- Go easy on the cheese, olives, deli meat, and croutons in your salad, and ask for salad dressings on the side.
- Ask for steamed vegetables with no sauce, and use a squeeze of lemon to brighten the flavor.
When you eat out, people usually consume more calories and have less control over the ingredients. My advice is to try and cook at home more, preparing more fresh foods, fewer processed foods, and slash the sodium by using flavorful ingredients. I also suggest trying to eat out no more than once a week, or as close to that if you can. Try some of the tips listed above to help cut the sodium without cutting the taste.
Sarah Kuretzky MA, CPT, CHHC