When eating out, it is important to watch your sodium intake. Especially if you are living with chronic kidney disease, the high amounts of sodium that are used in some restaurants can be detrimental to your health.
Here are some tips for eating out while watching your sodium intake:
Ask if the restaurant uses MSG (monosodium glutamate). MSG is a common ingredient in some restaurants, especially fast food and Chinese food restaurants, as a flavor enhancer. MSG is essentially concentrated sodium and should be avoided by everyone, especially kidney disease patients.
Call ahead to restaurants and ask if they have low sodium options, or if the cook is willing to make special orders to accommodate a low sodium diet. Some restaurants use a lot of prepackaged sauces and foods, and so in these cases some dishes are not able to be specially prepared.
A lot of Italian restaurants and Chinese restaurants have mostly high sodium options due to the sauces they use. Most Italian restaurants use a base of canned tomato sauce, which is very high sodium. While Chinese restaurants typically use a lot of soy and teriyaki sauces which, while there are lower sodium options, they can still be full of sodium.
Most fast food restaurants have little to no control or even knowledge of how much sodium is in their product. When eating out, it is best to choose restaurants that make everything fresh to order. Locally owned places are usually better able to accommodate special requests. When ordering salads or other dishes it’s important to request that dressings and sauces be left “on the side” so that you can control your intake of sodium. Always ask if there are low sodium options, and if not, sometimes dressings can be substituted with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Avoid most deli meats as they are often soaked in salt water to keep them fresh and moisturized. If you must eat deli, opt for turkey or chicken breast and avoid pastrami or pepperoni as they have very high sodium contents. In addition, it’s important to avoid casseroles because they usually have a smorgasbord of sodium laden sauces, and other ingredients that are generally unhealthy.
When choosing your entrees, you are best off opting for basic lean cuts of meat such as steak, chicken, or fish that are grilled or broiled. Remember to ask the chef to avoid salting your food and only use herbs or salt-free spice mixes. For your sides, you will typically fare better by ordering simple items such as vegetables and steamed rice. Again, don't forget to ask that your vegetables or other sides be prepared separately without being salted; otherwise even your vegetables can end up being full of sodium.
With moderation and careful attention, you can manage to eat out and still control your sodium intake. Don't be afraid to talk to the wait staff and ask a lot of questions or make requests. Most eat-in restaurants will be able to accommodate special requests so you can still enjoy eating out and watch your sodium intake.