Where Sodium Hides: A Guide to Ordering Out

Sure, your body needs sodium. But not as much as you might think. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends no more than 2,300 mg of sodium each day. That’s only about 1 teaspoon of salt. People with high blood pressure should aim for even less—1,500 mg a day. How can you cut back on salt when you’re eating out?

  • At any restaurant. Leave those extra salt packets or the saltshaker at the table—untouched. Experts say that up to 80 percent of the salt we consume comes from prepared foods, so there’s little need to add more.

    Also, ask the servers if they have low-sodium menu options; if none exist, ask if what you’re ordering can be prepared without adding salt; order sauces, dressings and condiments on the side. Remember that most grilled or baked foods will have less salt than their fried or breaded counterparts; aim to eat just half of the meal, saving the other half for another time.
  • At the pizza parlor. Meat and extra cheese on your pizza can add sodium (not to mention calories and fat) to your diet. Think about veggie toppings instead. And ask if your slice (or pie) can be made with half the cheese.
  • At the Chinese restaurant. Many Chinese dishes—even the vegetable ones—can be heavy on the salt. Sauces are the main culprits: 2 teaspoons of regular soy sauce, for example, have more than 800 mg of sodium. If you’re not sure, ask the server to point out items that are lower in salt content. You can also find out if any low-sodium sauces are available, or if regular sauces can be served on the side.
  • At the buffet or restaurant. Skip the breadbasket, as just one piece can have up to 230 mg of sodium.
  • At the deli. Ask for alternatives to cured meats (regular roasted turkey instead of deli turkey, for example). The cured versions often contain more than half of your daily sodium allotment.
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