Dining out 101- Let’s talk about Sodium

Continuing on with my series on how to dine out healthily, let’s chat for a bit about sodium content!

High sodium intake has been linked with high blood pressure and worsening kidney problems.  The increase in blood pressure affects the function of your arteries, and as a result the heart pumps blood less efficiently to the brain. When the brain receives poor blood flow due to high sodium and either dietary factors as well as inactivity, this can lead to vascular dementia, and can progress the disease Alzheimer’s.  High sodium intake is linked to variety of other diseases and you can read more here:  http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/salt-and-sodium/sodium-health-risks-and-disease/

I am a little bit of a sodium expert, because I have had a kidney condition since I was 18 that causes me to have to stay within a lower sodium range, in order to maintain good kidney function.

An ‘average’ person should have maximally 2300 mg of sodium in a day.  When we consume fresh whole foods at home, this is very easy to stick within the range.  When we eat packaged foods and dine out regularly the sodium content increases dramatically.  As an example, go look at something packaged in your cupboard, it is going to be loaded with sodium.

If you are buying packaged foods it’s important not to look at labels like “low sodium” , “10 % less sodium” etc.  Look at the portion size you are consuming, how much sodium is in that and then factor it in to your daily total.  Most labels are designed for marketing, and don’t actually have your Optimal Health in mind.

Let’s use some local Vancouver restaurants as examples for making healthier sodium choices.

Higher sodium choices from Joeys:

You can take a look at there menu HERE

  1.  BBQ salmon rice bowl from Joeys (930 cals, 52 grams of sat fat, 2240 mg of sodium, 24 g of sugar)

2)  California Chicken sandwhich (960 cals, 66 g fat (14 saturdated), 1700 mg sodium, 46 g carbs (4 g sugar)

3)  Housemade veggie burger (1030 calories, 76 grams fat (10 saturdated), 1780 sodium, 71 grams carbs (10 sugar)

  •  As you can see, these meals may ‘sound’ healthy, yet the sodium content is much too high, considering you will also eat sodium in your other meals in the day.  Does that mean you shouldn’t have the meals?  NOPE!  (Find my rule of thumb below).

Good Sodium choices from Joey’s:

  1.  Sushi Cone- 150 mg

2)  Blue chese sirloin- 550 mg

3)  House starter salad- 480 mg,

4)  Beach Salad (1050 calories, 86 grams of fat (11 saturdated), 610 mg sodium, 45 g carbs – 20 sugar)

  •  A lot of times when I dine out I like to choose a protein source, side salad, and some healthy carbs.  At Joey’s I would probably end up eating the Sirloin, starter salad, and probably steal some fries from Kyle’s plate, or order myself some potatoes.  I understand if you are a Vegetarian that won’t work for you, so take a look at the menu and see if there is a salad or other meal that will suit your needs!

General rules for decreasing sodium:

  1.  Stay away from: Cheese, sauces, ‘extravagant’ dishes (lots to them), bready/pasta dishes are always high. Sauces are always high, and dressings usually, soups, words like “pickedl/smoked”.

2)  Ask for any substitutions that you can to lower the sodium content.  Good substitutions to make are:  removing cheeses, croutons, dressings and pickled veggies.  Sometimes I ask for these on the side and then add in just a couple to my meal.

3) #1  Rule of Thumb for dining out: You can’t go wrong if you split your meal! By choosing anything off the menu that suits your appetite and splitting it (with a fresh veggie garden salad on the side), you can almost guarantee that you will stay within your sodium range.  

I hope this helped you in some way, whether by bringing awareness to your choices, or learning something new about sodium and it’s effect on our body.  You don’t have to wait until you have a ‘reason’ to lower your sodium intake.  Just briefly monitor it now, get used to how much you should have in a day, and then you are on the path for preventative health!

  •  Katherine

Photo Credit:  http://muscle-insider.com/content/does-sodium-make-you-fat

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