Eating fast food once in a while is perfectly ok. It tastes so good, right? It’s also super convenient when you’re rushed for time. Did you know that fast-food restaurants pack on the salt in their meals to make their food items taste better? Yes, they don’t really have your health in mind when creating the food options to serve.
Too much salt can have some possible negative consequences on your health. But there are menu items in fast-food restaurants that are lower in sodium and that are healthier options for you to choose from. There are also a few simple things to consider when ordering in order to lower your sodium intake when eating at fast-food restaurants.
Let’s take a look at a few of the main fast-food chains and what’s best to eat at each if you want to keep an eye on your sodium intake and stay healthy.
But first, let's talk about sodium and general choices you can make to make your fast food meal healthier.
Why Is Sodium So Bad?
Salt, AKA sodium chloride, is a compound made up of about 40% sodium and 60% chloride. Salt is a seasoning that we use in our meal preparations and as an added taste to certain food items. It is also used as a food preservative. While salt is essential in our diets to provide a better function of our bodies and organs, consuming too much salt may lead to water retention and high blood pressure, putting you at risk for heart disease.
Sodium is not good for a few specific health issues and needs to be monitored closely in order to reduce further health risks. If you have heart issues, high blood pressure, hypertension, or hypernatremia, your doctor may have recommended that you need to follow a low sodium diet to lower your salt intake.
Low Sodium Fast Foods List
Many single menu items in fast foods come close to the recommended sodium intake for a whole day. That’s one item in your whole day that brings you up close to the healthy sodium intake limit. Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular fast-food restaurants and what items they offer that have low sodium and can help keep you on your low sodium diet.
- Scrambled Eggs (2) at 180 mg
- Fruit & Yogurt Parfait at 80 mg
- Cinnamon Melts at 370 mg
- Fruit & Maple Oatmeal at 160 mg
- Hash Browns at 310 mg
- Hamburger at 480 mg
- Side salad without dressing at 10 mg
- Bacon Ranch Salad without chicken or dressing at 320 mg
- Small french fry at 130 mg
- Maple oatmeal at 270 mg
- Cinnamon rolls at 280 mg
- Egg & Cheese Croissan’wich at 580 mg
- Hamburger at 380 mg
- Double Hamburger at 400 mg
- Chicken Nuggets (4 pc.) at 310 mg
- Garden Side Salad with no dressing at 95 mg
- Value size french fries at 330 mg (order unsalted to lower this a little)
- Veggie Delight on 9-grain wheat bread with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and cucumbers at 280 mg. If you add chicken, add another 610 mg.
- Tuna sandwich on 9-grain wheat bread with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and cucumbers at 580 mg.
- Tuna salad with lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, cucumbers, and olives at 270 mg. Use only the oil and vinegar dressing – the rest are packed with sodium.
- Choose Swiss cheese as a condiment at 35 mg, and for dessert – choose the apple slices at 0 mg.
- 5 Piece Chicken Nuggets at 480mg
- Broccoli + Cheese Baked Potatoes at 510mg
- Jr. Hamburger at 610mg
- Caesar Side Salad - no dressing at 250mg
- Junior- 6 oz. cup Frostys at 100mg
- Dressing: Caesar Dressing at 240mg, Fat-Free French Style at 240mg
- Hash Browns at 270 mg
- AM Grilled Taco with Egg & Cheese at 330 mg
- AM Grilled Taco with Sausage at 460 mg
- Cinnabon Delights, 2 pack at 80 mg and 4 pack at 160 mg
- Beef Crunchy Taco at 310 mg
- Fiery Doritos Locos Taco Supreme at 400 mg
- Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Taco Supreme at 390 mg
- Chicken Crunchy Taco at 430 mg
Tips About Low Sodium Fast Food
There are ways to order at fast-food restaurants in order to lower your sodium intake. A few simple changes to your regular meal order can have a huge impact on the amount of sodium you are consuming.
We’ve added a few more tips to make your meal as healthy as possible.
- Switch the side orders
Those yummy french fries are loaded with sodium. Look for alternatives to replace the fries in your meal. Some fast-food places offer salads, vegetables, or baked potatoes that contain less sodium than seasoned french fries.
- Ask for dressing on the side
Even the salads can rack up the sodium in the dressing. Ask for it on the side and add a little of it to your salad.
You can order your hamburger without the high-sodium condiments like ketchup and pickles.
- Don’t Super-size
Well, this one is kind of obvious. The more you eat the more sodium you consume. Stick to the regular sizes and skip the urge to go bigger.
- Choose grilled or baked meats
Choosing grilled or baked instead of fried or breaded meat is the healthiest choice.
- Avoid the Soda
Order water with your meal and you will be instantly making it a healthier option. Soda is packed with sugar and that can have consequences on your weight and teeth health.
A Few Things To Look For On Labels
Always try to take a look at the labels. Some fast-food chains are now offering information on the ingredients and nutritional information regarding their meals. Look for these labels to help stick to your low sodium diet. These words or phrases will help you when you are looking for low-sodium meals.
- Light in sodium
- Reduced Sodium
Things to Look for in Labels
The words salt or sodium are not the only words labels use to indicate the sodium in their products. This list of ingredients is also sodium products.
- Sodium alginate
- Sodium ascorbate
- Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
- Sodium benzoate
- Sodium caseinate
- Sodium chloride
- Sodium citrate
- Sodium hydroxide
- Sodium saccharin
- Sodium stearoyl lactylate
- Sodium sulfite
- Disodium phosphate
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Trisodium phosphate
Pass the Salt Shaker, or Not
Salt is an essential part of our diets and should not be cut out completely from our food. We need to keep in mind that too much sodium can have damaging effects, especially for those with certain health conditions.
Monitoring your sodium intake can be quite easy by reading the labels and/or asking for nutritional information in restaurants.
We all want to lead healthy and productive lives. Being aware of our food and what is in it is a good way to keep on top of things.
This being said, it doesn’t have to mean skipping the occasional fast-food meal from time to time. They are easy, affordable, and convenient for certain circumstances. But hitting the drive-thru every day is certainly not recommended. Everything in moderation.