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Untitled Document

How to Watch Your Salt When You Eat Out

By Leslie Vandever

Salt is the most widely used spice in the world. It enhances the flavor of foods and has been the go-to food preservative for centuries.

But too much salt can be bad for you. It contributes to—or even causes—a number of serious health problems that sicken, disable, and even kill thousands of Americans every year. Salt:

  • increases your risk of high blood pressure
  • increases your risk of heart disease
  • increases your risk of stroke
  • causes water retention and bloating

Taking steps to limit the amount of salt you eat each day is fairly simple.

First, know how much sodium is healthy. A quarter-teaspoon of table salt contains 575 mg. (milligrams) of sodium. The National Institutes of Health encourages most healthy adults to eat 2,300 mg. (1 tsp.) or less each day. Children also need to limit their salt intake.

If you’re age 51 or older, black, have high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, or heart disease, drop your sodium to 1,500 mg. (about a half-tsp.) per day.

Limiting how much salt you eat isn’t too tough when you’re at home, preparing your own meals. But eating out is a different beast. How do you control salt then? It takes a little effort, but it’s not very hard:

  • ask for your food to be prepared without salt
  • use vinegar and oil or lemon juice on salads—or go without dressing
  • if you must use salad dressings, use them sparingly. Most have a load of sodium in them
  • ask for sauces on the side; use sparingly
  • don’t use the salt shaker
  • eat slowly and take the time to really taste your food. You may discover it doesn’t even need more salt
  • order items that are lower in calories. Low-cal portions are smaller, so the sodium content is too
  • eat half portions or, if you can, order from the senior or child’s menus. Portions are smaller.
  • don’t use soy sauce or ketchup. Limit pickles, olives, bottled salsa and relish
  • ask for lemon wedges to season salads and other foods
  • choose meals made with fresh meats, fresh or fresh-frozen vegetables, and fruits. Canned foods usually contain added sodium as a preservative
  • avoid bacon, hot dogs, sausage, ham and other processed meats
  • avoid potato chips, french fries, and battered onion rings as side dishes
  • avoid foods made with MSG (monosodium glutamate). Ask if the foods you’re ordering have MSG in them

There are ways to limit your salt intake when you eat fast-foods, too:

  • ask that the meat on your sandwich not be salted
  • order a salad or fruit on the side, rather than fries or onion rings
  • eat half of what you order, or order the “value” or children’s size
  • choose chicken that’s been roasted, grilled, or broiled
  • avoid bacon or ham
  • leave off the pickles, ketchup, or special sauce
  •  

Some restaurants in the U.S. are concerned about their customer’s health. They’re voluntarily reducing the amount of salt they use in their foods, and some even offer special low-sodium menu items. Look for them as you decide what to order, or ask your server.

Once your taste buds have become accustomed to how delicious foods taste without salt, you’ll find that you like them just as well as you always did—and maybe, even better.

For more information about this or other health-related subjects, click here.

Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience. She lives in the foothills of Northern California.

References:

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