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Dining out on a low-sodium diet

There are many ways to help reduce your sodium intake while eating out. Your choices will vary with the type of eating situation. Follow these steps to successfully lower your sodium while eating out.

How to order from a menu

  • Ask that your food be made without salt.
  • Bring your own spice blend, salt-free seasoning or salt substitute.
  • Choose food that doesn't need a lot of preparation, such as broiled, baked or roasted meats made without sauces, breading or batters.
  • Order sauces and au jus (on the side) and use them sparingly.
  • Try lemon juice or vinegar oil for salad dressing, or ask that regular salad dressing be served "on the side" and use them sparingly.
  • Bring your own low-sodium salad dressing.
  • Choose fresh fruit or fruit juice for an appetizer.
  • Choose beverages lower in sodium, such as coffee, tea, milk, soda pop or lemonade. Avoid buttermilk, tomato juice and vegetable juice.
  • Choose lean, fresh meats for sandwich fillings rather than processed meats and meat salads.
  • Ask for fresh fruit, unsalted french fries, lettuce, tomato and onion to go along with sandwiches (instead of pickles and potato chips).
  • Choose ice cream, sherbet, gelatin or fruit for dessert rather than higher-sodium items such as pies and pastries.

How to order from fast food restaurants

  • Order a plain sandwich — hold the pickles, ketchup, mustard, cheese and special sauces.
  • Ask for lettuce, tomato and onion for garnish.
  • Order unsalted french fries.

What to choose from salad bars

  • Choose fresh vegetables or canned or fresh fruits as a major part of your meal.
  • Choose vinegar and oil or lemon juice for salad dressing.
  • Limit the use of higher-sodium ingredients such as bacon bits, pickles, cheese and meat salads.

How to order ethnic foods

  • For Asian dining, choose menu items that are made to order. Ask that food be made without salt, soy sauce or MSG.
  • Choose menu items that do not include sauces.
  • Mexican foods such as tacos, burritos and tostados are lower-sodium choices for you.
  • Other ethnic foods, such as German and Italian, are often made ahead of time. These items may be more difficult for you to special order.
  • If you are eating ethnic cuisine, compensate for your meal out by eating low-sodium at home before and after the meal.

Source: Twin Cities Dietetic Association



Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Heart Failure, third edition, ISBN 1-931876-20-7

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 07/19/2008

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts