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Best Menu Choices

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Best Menu Choices


The most difficult time to control salt consumption is when dining out. Making good nutritional choices can often be difficult, particularly when you don't know what has been added to the foods you order. For example, a healthy garden salad with low-fat dressing oftentimes has more sodium than a hamburger and french fries. Hard to believe, but what we think is healthy may not be low in sodium.

When you are about to order from the menu, do you know which items are typically lower in sodium? The following are your best choices from appetizers to desserts and by cuisine, including Asian, Mexican and other specialty restaurants.

General Selections

Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, unsalted nuts, dried fruits or banana chips
Avoid crackers, cheese dips, pates, cocktail sauce and meatballs

Choose Swiss or goat cheese
Avoid feta, brie and most other cheeses

Choose beer, wine, champagne, apple cider, tea, or coffee
Avoid eggnog, Bloody Marys and Pina Coladas

Choose tossed greens, carrot/raisin and gelatin salads
Avoid three-bean and mayo-based salads

Salad Dressings
Choose a vinaigrette or oil and vinegar
Avoid creamy dressings and Zesty Italian

Bowl of soupSoups
Avoid soups

Choose grilled poultry, beef, pork, fish, or dishes without sauces.
Avoid ham, sausage, breaded or fried dishes, and entrees with creamy sauces.

Side Dishes
Choose vegetables without sauces, candied yams, glazed carrots, applesauce, or mashed potatoes
Avoid stuffing, rice pilaf and cottage cheese

Choose matzos or small dinner rolls
Avoid biscuits, muffins, cornbread, focaccia bread and bread sticks

Choose au jus, honey mustard, cranberry sauce, fruit relishes and chutneys, jams and jellies
Avoid olives, pickles, ketchup, Dijon-type mustards, gravies and most sauces

Choose meringue cookies, apple strudel, sponge cake, fruitcake, sherbet, sorbet, custard, or fruit tarts
Avoid pies, pastries, gingerbread, angel food and frosted cakes

Asian Cuisine

Asian foodsAlthough full of delicious flavors, Asian cuisine is loaded with sodium. Here are ways to lessen the salt.

  • Limit your intake of sauces by using chopsticks and leaving the sauce on the plate.
  • Ask that salt and MSG not be added to your selections, however, many are made with sauces that contain soy sauce which is high is sodium.
  • Request more vegetables be substituted for some of the meat or fish in dishes.
  • Do not add soy sauce to your meal.

Best Choices:

  • Bean curd or tofu items
  • Steamed rice
  • Steamed or stir-fried dishes with vegetables
  • Sweet and sour, chili, or garlic sauces (although still high in salt, these have the lowest amounts)


  • Soy sauce and MSG
  • Black bean, hoisin, plum, fish and oyster sauces
  • Deep fried or battered dishes (i.e. tempura)
  • Chow mein and lo mein
  • Pickled foods
  • Soups

Fast Foods

HamburgerEven though the majority of fast foods are high in sodium, most eateries have some lower salt choices.

Best Choices:

  • Unsalted fries
  • Veggie sandwiches
  • Burgers (remove half the bun, hold the cheese, mayo and pickles)
  • Yogurt or fresh fruit


  • Breaded fish and poultry
  • Subs and wraps
  • Salty chips
  • Ketchup with your fries
  • Condiments and cheese
  • Pies or cookies

French Cuisine

Roast chickenIf you stay away from creamy entrees and sauces, you can enjoy many French dishes.

Best Choices:

  • Dishes with wine-based sauces
  • Vinaigrette dressings
  • Sorbet
  • Fresh fruit desserts or tarts


  • Creamy sauces (like hollandaise, morney, bechamel, or bernaise)
  • Creamy soups

Italian Cuisine

Pasta on a forkMany salty dishes have spicy meats or creamy sauces, here are some alternatives.

Best Choices:

  • Pastas with marinara sauce
  • Pasta/fagoli or marsala dishes
  • Primavera
  • Piccata (hold the capers)
  • Oil and vinegar dressing
  • Italian ices


  • Antipasto platters
  • Cheese or cream sauces
  • Adding grated cheese
  • Breads and rolls

Mexican Cuisine

Chips and salsaAlthough heavy in sodium-laden cheeses and sauces, you have many choices to keep your salt in check.

  • Request sauces on the side
  • Ask that cheese not be added to your meal
  • Substitute corn tortillas for flour

Best Choices:

  • Ceviche
  • Grilled fish or chicken
  • Beef or chicken tacos or tostadas
  • Corn tortillas
  • Fresh salsa or pico de gallo
  • Guacamole
  • Flan


  • Salty chips
  • Cheesy dishes, like enchiladas and quesadillas
  • Burritos
  • Beans and rice
  • Chorizo (Mexican sausage)
  • Flour tortillas
This page last updated: 08/01/10