If Americans would cut just a little salt from their diets, researchers say we could prevent a quarter of a million heart disease cases and 200,000 deaths over the next decade. In addition, reducing salt by just a gram per day would result in lower blood pressure and fewer heart attacks and strokes. However, trends indicate that salt consumption in the United States has risen by 50 percent since the 1970s. Americans are now consuming an average of 9 to 12 grams of salt per day which is far greater than the recommended USDA limit of 6 grams.
While many people are conscientious about reducing salt when they are eating at home they give up the effort when in a restaurant. While an occasional lapse in your diet can be alright, if you regularly eat in restaurants or have a health problem that prohibits sodium, it is crucial to understand how to eat lower sodium food when dining out. While most restaurant food does contain salt, keep in mind that with some creativity and effort you can still enjoy dining out from time to time just without as much salt.
You can try these ideas for lowering your salt intake when dining out:
• Be careful which restaurants you choose. Common sense should tell you that fast food restaurants or other places where food is pre-cooked will be a no-no for reducing salt. Many fast food restaurants have individual items that represent your recommended sodium intake for an entire day! Try to choose somewhere where your food can be cooked to order which means asking that no salt be used. If you are selective about where you dine out you can find places that will accommodate a no-salt request. Also do not forget to ask the server for suggestions for no-salt choices as it is their job to educate you about the menu. Remember you should not hesitate to ask for reduced- or no-salt meal as it is your dining dollar that is being spent and restaurants want your business.
• Be selective in what you order. Since condiments contain a high degree of sodium, order a green salad with no salad dressing and ask for olive oil and a lemon wedge on the side for a refreshing change that will actually allow you to taste your salad. For your entrée, try ordering poached or steamed fish prepared without salt which is not only lower in sodium but kind to your waistline as well.
• Be careful of the add-ons. Many foods are low in sodium and then we add in higher sodium sides or toppings. If you are looking to reduce your sodium intake when dining out then it is best to avoid the following: sauces, cheese, cured meats such sausage, pepperoni and bacon. Also, try to avoid dishes that are made with canned or processed foods. Many of these items can be left out of your dish entirely, thereby avoiding the salt temptation before it even gets to your table.
• Diet tips cross over to reduce sodium. If you are trying to watch the number of calories you consume you can also reduce your sodium. While restaurant food is often highly salted, part of why it tastes so good, splitting an entrée with someone can reduce your sodium, save you money and help your waistline. You can then have leftovers to eat the next day as well. In addition, nutrition experts continue to recommend the eight glasses of water a day for everyone. Drinking lots of water reduces the number of calories you consume which will also reduce your salt intake. When dining out ask your server for a pitcher of water for the table. Refill your glass often, eat slowly and savor your food. Your health will be better without reducing any of the fun of dining out.