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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 careful about what you order in a restaurant. Sodium isn't just in table salt. You can also find it in sodium citrate, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and monosodium glutamate (MSG). Asian foods often have MSG as well as soy sauce, which is also high in sodium. But with some planning and helpful tips, you can still enjoy eating out while limiting the sodium in your diet.
It requires extra effort to avoid sodium when you eat out, because you can't always tell by looking 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 sodium when you dine out.
Learn what food items are okay and which ones to avoid. For example, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce has more than 1,000 mg of sodium, and 1 teaspoon of salt has about 2,300 mg of sodium. You can use the following list and bring it with you to the restaurant. You may be able to substitute low-salt or fresh menu items for those with higher sodium content.
Foods to avoid
Instead, choose or ask for ...
Smoked, cured, and salted meat, fish, and poultry
Fresh, grilled, baked, poached, or broiled meat, fish, or poultry
Ham, bacon, hot dogs, luncheon meats, and cheese
Fresh roasted pork, turkey, or chicken
Fresh steamed vegetables with no added salt. (Assume that cooked vegetables have added salt unless you ask for them to be prepared without it.)
Condiments, such as pickles, olives, tartar sauce, and ketchup
Sliced cucumbers, malt vinegar, or low-sodium ketchup and mustard
Sauces, including soy sauce, tomato sauce, au jus, and gravy
Low-sodium tomato sauce, olive oil. Or ask for your food to be prepared without sauces, or have the sauces served on the side.
Oil and vinegar, lemon juice, or low-sodium dressing
Fast foods, including french fries, pizza, and tacos
Plain baked potato, grilled chicken sandwich
Soups and broths
Salads without croutons, bacon, cheese, or olives
Tomato juice or any drink that contains tomato juice, such as V-8 or Clamato. This includes alcoholic drinks like Bloody Marys.
Orange juice, other citrus juices, or soft drinks
Fried or seasoned rice
Steamed plain rice. (Asian restaurants often add salt to steamed rice. Be sure to ask for steamed rice without added salt.)
Pasta with tomato sauce
Pasta tossed in olive oil or with fresh tomatoes
Ice cream, sherbet, frozen yogurt, and angel food cake are all lower-sodium dessert choices.
Current as of: November 7, 2018
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine & Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
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