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Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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High Sodium Dishes

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I love salt. I love the taste of salt and I love salty food. Salt simply tastes good. Unfortunately, too much salt isn't good for us. It can lead to high blood pressure which can lead to stroke.

Salt is listed as sodium on a food label, and the US Dietary Guidelines tell us to limit our intake to less than 2,300 mg. Researchers predict that the average person in America and in other places in the UK and Asia take in about 4,000 mg or more per day.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) just came out with a report on sodium found in many restaurant meals. They list the top 10 saltiest meals in America as well as the top 10 saltiest kid's meals in America. Here are some of the highlights of the top 5 in each category:

Top 5 saltiest restaurant meals in America:
  1. Red Lobster: Admiral's Feast (4,662 mg) with a caesar salad with dressing (930 mg), creamy lobster topped mashed potatoes (1,110 mg), cheddar bay biscuit (350 mg), lemonade (54 mg). Grand Total: 7,106 mg sodium for this meal
  2. Chili's: Buffalo chicken fajitas with tortillas and condiments (6,846 mg), Dr. Pepper (70). Grand Total: 6,916 mg for this meal
  3. Chili's: Honey-chipotle ribs (5,150 mg), mashed potatoes with gravy (1,050 mg), seasonal vegetables (170 mg), Dr. Pepper (70). Grand Total: 6,440 mg for this meal
  4. Olive Garden: Tour of Italy (lasagna) (3,830 mg), 1 breadstick (350 mg), garden fresh salad with house dressing (1,990 mg), Coca Cola (6 mg). Grand Total: 6,176 mg for this meal
  5. Olive Garden: Chicken Parmigiana (3,380 mg), 1 breadstick (350 mg), garden fresh salad wth house dressing (1,990 mg), raspberry lemonade (15 mg). Grand Total: 5,735 mg for this meal
I told you about a month ago about Darden Restaurants (owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster above) putting all of their nutrition information online. This is the kind of information that is now posted. You can search each restaurant's website to find the meals you like to eat and see how many calories, fat, and mg of sodium are in those dishes.

You can blame the restaurants all you want, but we need to take personal responsibility to pay attention to these numbers. Salt tastes good. Restaurants use salt because you go back to their restaurants because you liked the flavor of their food. Our palates have become accustomed to the taste of salt and we need more and more to satisfy that salty craving.

If you are trying to cut back on sodium at restaurants, here are some foods that are commonly high in sodium:
  • Salad dressing
  • Sauces (marinara/tomato, BBQ, alfredo, creamy, etc)
  • Soup
  • Broth
  • Condiments like pickles, olives, ketchup, salsa, etc.
  • Blackening seasoning
  • Cheese
  • Salted items like french fries, onion rings, mashed potatoes
This is just a sampling. Many restaurants add salt to things that you would not think of. Ask for your dish to be prepared without salt and get sauces and dressings on the side or not at all.
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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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