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Easy on the Sodium

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Easy on the Sodium

Eating out on a regular basis can mean routinely consuming high amounts of sodium. Here’s how to reduce your intake. 

What to watch for

Heard that restaurant foods are often high in sodium? It’s true. Surprisingly, however, recent Canadian data showed that sit-down restaurants meals generally delivered more sodium than fast food restaurants meals, with many dishes actually exceeding the level of sodium recommended for an entire day.

In both types of restaurants, stir fries were the worst, by far. Often recommended as the more nutritious choice because of their lower fat and high vegetable content, on average, stir fries contained more than 4 times the sodium of a slice of medium-size pizza.

Tips to eating out smart

  • Ask stir-fry chefs to use less sauce (e.g., soy, hoisin and fish sauces).
  • Get Asian-style meals cooked without monosodium glutamate (MSG).
  • Order your meat, poultry or fish grilled with herbs instead of salt.
  • Dress salads with oil and vinegar instead of ready-made salad dressings.
  • Order dressings, sauces and gravy on the side and use only a little.
  • Eat smart-sized portions—restaurant servings can be large, compounding your sodium intake.
  • Eat out less—brown bag leftovers of home-cooked meals more often.

Home run

Ready-to-eat foods tend to be more processed and higher in sodium. Some tips to reducing sodium intake at home:

  • Rely less on ready-to-eat products. Check the Nutrition Facts table on foods and favour those delivering less than 15% of the Daily Value for sodium per serving.
  • Choose reduced-sodium options whenever you can.
  • Opt for fresh or frozen vegetables over canned, natural cheese over ‘processed’ cheese slices and spreads.
  • Use more herbs and spices instead of salt in cooking.

Sources

Scourboutakos MJ and L’Abbé MR. Sodium levels in Canadian fast-food and sit-down restaurants. Can J Public Health 2013;104(1):e2-e8.

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