Reduce sodium while dining out

(NC)—When you are making a choice from a restaurant menu you can usually tell what is in the various dishes by their names or descriptions or photos. If not, the servers can answer most of your questions or they can find out. One ingredient that is harder to identify is sodium (salt). It is almost always there, but you never know how much. This is unfortunate, given that Canadians are eating too much sodium and that most of it – about 77% – comes from packaged foods and meals we eat out.

Samara Foisy, Heart and Stroke Foundation registered dietitian, provides the following tips on how to make lower sodium choices while dining out:

• Less is more. Eat out less and cook at home more. Cook from scratch as often as you can.

• Make an informed choice. Check online for nutrition information before you go or ask for nutrition information once you arrive at a restaurant.

• Undress your meal. Sauces and gravies can be high in both sodium and fat. Ask to skip them or have them on the side so you can control how much you use.

• Make substitutions. Order your meat, poultry or fish baked, broiled, poached, roasted or grilled with no salt or other seasonings that contain salt. Ask for lemon slices, fresh pepper or extra herbs and spices to add flavour. You can also ask for your vegetables steamed with no added salt.

• Identify hidden sources. Be familiar with words that increase the sodium content of a dish such as marinated, pickled, smoked, breaded, brined, au jus, teriyaki or “in broth”.

• The extras count. Beware of condiments such as ketchup, relish, mustard, soy sauce, and dressing which can be high in sodium.

• Divide and conquer. Share an entrée or take half of your meal home. You'll cut the sodium, calories and fat in half.

• Check for Health Check. The Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check logo on restaurant menu items means they have met criteria developed by the foundation's registered dietitians based on recommendations in Canada's Food Guide. Learn more about making healthy choices at

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