Click to enlargeLow Sodium Dining Out

Low Sodium Dining Out

Coping with sodium restrictions while dining out is a challenge that can be met. With these tips you can deal effectively with a low sodium diet while continuing to enjoy dining out. The emphasis is on taking responsibility for what you eat in a restaurant or a friend's home. Tell your waiter that you can't have salt on anything. Ask him/her to inform the chef of your sodium restriction by writing "no salt on anything" on your order.

  • Check to see if a restaurant has unsalted butter or margarine. If they don't, you can bring it with you. If you would like your entree sauteed, give a cube to the kitchen.
  • Check to see if they have separate cruets of oil and vinegar for your salad dressing.
  • Your salad can have lettuce and fresh vegetables, but no canned or cooked vegetables, and no seafood or cooked dried beans.
  • Choose food without sauces.
  • Do not assume that "heart healthy" symbols on a menu means low sodium.
  • For your entree, ask to have meat, fish, or poultry broiled with no salt or other seasoning, making sure it has not been marinated.
  • If you order chicken, make sure it has not been precooked. Some restaurants precook the chicken with salt and then place it under the broiler to brown when ordered.
  • Avoid soup, since it almost always salted.
  • Before ordering rice, ask if it can be steamed or cooked without salt. Avoid rice pilaf. It is almost always cooked with salt.
  • Ask if a vegetable can be steamed or boiled without salt in the water, and with no butter, margarine, or seasoning added.
  • Limit dessert to fresh or frozen fruit.
  • If you enjoy dining out, select restaurants where you know your instructions will be followed without making you feel as though you are imposing.
  • Patronize restaurants where food is cooked to order.
  • Pick and choose from the menu. If an item appears somewhere on the menu, you should be able to get it with whatever entree you want. If you see a salad topped with teriyaki chicken strips and you also see a plain grilled chicken breast sandwich, ask to combine the lower sodium components of both entrees. So you would have a salad topped with a grilled chicken breast.
  • No matter how careful you are, expect that you will probably consume more sodium than you would at home preparing your own meals. If you know you're going to out to eat, eat as many low sodium natural foods as you can the rest of the day to protect yourself from the excess sodium you may receive in one meal at a restaurant.
  • Avoid ethnic restaurants such as Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, and Indian, since sodium restrictions are almost impossible to accommodate in these cuisines.
  • Fast food restaurants are a disaster in terms of excessive sodium. They usually cannot make changes in their menus.
  • Request unsalted french fries.
  • Try to find restaurants with salad bars where you can choose the items you want. But avoid the high sodium extras; bacon bits, pickled anything, mayo based salads (potato, macaroni...), and premixed salad dressings.