Sodium Survival Guide: Chain Restaurants & More

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Hi Hungry Girl,

I'm a big fan of fast food and chain restaurants, so I love your survival guides! But sometimes the sodium counts of your picks are too high for me. What can a sodium counter do about this?

Stumped by Sodium

Sodium Survival Strategies

Hi Stumped,

Whenever the HG team and I put together a restaurant survival guide, we spend a lot of time identifying the smartest picks. We look for meals that have impressive calorie counts, a good amount of fiber, and lots of protein. Unfortunately, it's often impossible to find menu options that are low in sodium -- high salt counts are somewhat inevitable at chain restaurants and fast-food joints. (Take a look at the entire menu's nutritional information -- usually available on the chain's website -- and you'll see what I mean!) Let's face it: Salt makes food taste good. It also acts as a preservative, which means the food stays fresh longer. It's no wonder restaurant meals are full of the stuff. So what should someone who watches sodium do? Here are some ideas...

Modify the menu items - Chain restaurants tend to be pretty accommodating when it comes to special requests. And sometimes, a simple switcheroo can save you hundreds of milligrams of sodium. Sauces are an especially heavy source of salt; get them on the side, and use sparingly, or swap 'em out for lemon wedges or balsamic vinegar. Salad dressings are another sodium-fest; always get them on the side -- then dip, don't pour. Better yet, trade them for vinegar and a splash of oil. Read the menu descriptions carefully, and don't be afraid to ask questions. Then request that they leave off the saltier items: pickles, cheese, bacon, and (duh) added salt. Unexpected sodium slasher: If you're getting a sandwich, ditch the top bread slice or bun half; bread is often higher in salt than you'd think! Better yet, get your sandwich goodies over lettuce.

Order "off" the menu - Some of your best choices (both from a sodium standpoint and a calorie one!) are baked chicken, broiled fish, petite grilled sirloin steak, steamed veggies, a plain baked potato (save half if it's huge), and fruit salad. Just request no salt on the proteins. If you don't see simple selections like these on the menu, don't hesitate to ask. The worst they can say is no...

Check out these sodium-savvy finds - For those times when you don't have the time or energy to hack the menu, I've compiled a few straight-from-the-menu items that are much lower in sodium than typical fast-food and fast-casual fare...

* McDonalds' Fruit 'N Yogurt Parfait: 150 calories, 80mg sodium (PointsPlus® value 4*)

* Panera Bread's Power Almond Quinoa Oatmeal: 290 calories, 220mg sodium (PointsPlus® value 7*)

* Subway's Oven Roasted Chicken Salad with Olive Oil Blend & Vinegar: 260 calories, 280mg sodium (PointsPlus® value 7*)

* P.F. Changs' Chicken Satay: 250 calories, 240mg sodium (PointsPlus® value 6*)

* TGI Fridays' 6-oz. Sirloin Steak: 330 calories, 470mg sodium (PointsPlus® value 9*)

* Chipotle Mexican Grill's Crispy Tacos with black beans and fajita veggies: 350 calories, 460mg sodium (PointsPlus® value 8*)

Happy chewing!


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*The PointsPlus® and SmartPoints® values for these products and/or recipes were calculated by Hungry Girl and are not an endorsement or approval of the product, recipe, or its manufacturer or developer by Weight Watchers International, Inc., the owner of the PointsPlus® registered trademark and SmartPoints
® trademark.

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