To Eat Out or To Eat In…That Is the Question.  Whether ‘tis better to battle the bloat of high sodium and high calories or better to spend an hour cooking in and cleaning your own kitchen.

The decision more times than not will lead to the nearest restaurant.  BUT before making that
decision, did you do your research?  Do you know how many calories you have left to consume for the day?  Do you know where you are in your sodium consumption?  Have you pined over the nutritional information for your favorite restaurant, gingerly selecting the best option, taking into consideration the calories and sodium?

If you have taken my previous advice and are using either the MyFitnessPal app on your smartphone or logging your food and exercise on, then you can
easily see your remaining calories and sodium for the day.  On average, experts recommend that you only consume a total of 2300 mg of sodium PER DAY. Unfortunately, many restaurants
load their dishes with sodium and one meal can set you over or WAY over your daily recommended intake.  If you are trying to lose weight and/or have any heart health concerns, you want to pay very close attention to your sodium numbers. One day of eating a high amount of sodium can send your weight up 5-10 lbs due to the additional water retention caused by the increased sodium.

Here is an excerpt from the Move Your Body Transformation Program coming out later this year:

What is Sodium?

(The following excerpt is from

Sodium is an element that the body needs to function properly.


The body uses sodium to regulate blood pressure and blood volume. Sodium is also critical for the functioning of muscles and nerves.

Food Sources

Sodium occurs naturally in most foods. The most common form of sodium is
sodium chloride, which is table salt. Milk, beets, and celery also naturally
contain sodium, as does drinking water, although the amount varies depending on
the source.

Sodium is also added to various food products. Some of these added forms are
monosodium glutamate, sodium nitrite, sodium saccharin, baking soda (sodium
bicarbonate), and sodium benzoate. These are ingredients in condiments and
seasonings such as Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, onion salt, garlic salt, and
bouillon cubes.

Processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, and ham, and canned soups and
vegetables are all examples of foods that contain added sodium. Fast foods are
generally very high in sodium.

Side Effects

Too much sodium may lead to high blood pressure in those who are sensitive
to sodium. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor will probably recommend
that you reduce your sodium (salt) intake.

Sodium may lead to a serious build-up of fluid in people with congestive heart failure, cirrhosis, or kidney disease. Such people should be on a strict sodium-restricted diet, as prescribed by their doctor.


Dietary sodium is measured in milligrams (mg). Table salt is 40% sodium; 1
teaspoon of table salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium.

Healthy adults should limit sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day while
individuals with high blood pressure should consume no more than 1,500 mg per
day. Those with congestive heart failure, liver cirrhosis, and kidney disease
may need much lower amounts.

Specific recommendations regarding sodium intake do not exist for infants,
children, and adolescents. Eating habits and attitudes about food formed during
childhood are likely to influence eating habits for life. For this reason,
moderate intake of sodium is suggested.


Lichtenstein AH, et al. AHA Scientific Statement. Diet and lifestyle
recommendations revision 2006. A scientific statement from the American Heart
Association Nutrition Committee. Circulation. 2006;114:82-96.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) and U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA). Dietary Guidelines for Americans — 2005. Chapter
8: Sodium and Potassium
. Accessed May 25, 2010.

Date: 5/26/2010

Updated by: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc, and David
C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine,
Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine.

Kristy’s Sodium Rules

When shopping for food, I stick with the following general rules regarding sodium:

1)   If the product contains more 500mg or more of sodium per serving, I do not
purchase it.

2)   If the product contains less than 200mg of sodium, I consider the product to be good in the sodium category.

3)   If the product contains between 200mg and 499mg of sodium, I then compare the calories of other brands or other products and choose the brand or product with the lowest calories and sodium.

The same basic rules hold true for restaurant food.  Before I order a meal at a restaurant, I know
which meal will provide me with the lowest sodium and lowest caloric intake.  I spend the time researching the nutritional information from the internet, as well, information from the
MyFitnessPal and Restaurant Nutrition apps on my phone.  If I didn’t have time to prepare and research the menu before leaving home, I will sit at a restaurant, either while waiting for a table or while at the table, and review the menu and nutritional information on my phone until I decide which option is best for me.  I do not allow my co-diners or the wait staff to pressure me into ordering before I am ready.


Here is an example of something I used to eat at Applebees:

Fiesta Lime Chicken                               Calories: 1210     Sodium:  3200mg

            w/extra Mexi-Ranch dressing     Calories: 140       Sodium:  490mg

Total                                                      Calories:  1350    Sodium:  3690mg


Here is what I would order today at Applebees:

Half of a Grilled Chicken Caesars Salad      Calories: 180       Sodium: 450mg

             without dressing

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (1 tbsp)                       Calories: 40         Sodium:  0mg

Red Wine Vinegar (2 tbsp)                           Calories: 6           Sodium:  2mg

Total                                                            Calories: 226      Sodium:  452mg


Here is what I used to eat at McDonald’s for breakfast every day during the week:

Sausage McMuffin with Cheese                  Calories:  370       Sodium:  850mg

Sausage McMuffin with Cheese                  Calories:  370       Sodium:  850mg

Large Sweet Tea                                         Calories:  280       Sodium:  15mg

Total                                                            Calories: 1020    Sodium:  1715mg


I do not eat breakfast at any fast food restaurants.  However, if I was forced to choose
something at McDonald’s, I would choose

Fruit and Maple Oatmeal                             Calories: 260       Sodium:  115mg

Without Brown Sugar

Total                                                            Calories:  260      Sodium:  115mg

Instead, now I eat

Kashi Go Lean Crunch                                Calories: 190       Sodium:  100mg

Fresh Blueberries (approx. 15 berries)       Calories: 11         Sodium:  0mg

Almond Milk                                                Calories: 60         Sodium:  150mg

Total                                                           Calories: 261      Sodium:  250mg

The bottom line is if you are trying to lose weight or become healthier in general, do your research and put your health above what is popular or what your taste buds are telling you to eat.  Do not trust the restaurant to make the decision for you.

For example, all of the “Under 550 Calories™” selections at Applebees have over 1500mg of sodium and the Weight Watchers® Paradise Chicken Salad contains 2060mg of sodium.

Take some time to look through the links that I have included for several different chain restaurants around the Metro Atlanta area.  See what you think…I have included at least one WINNER for lowest sodium and freshest ingredients.  Another one was a pure shock!  See if you can find it!  Happy Eating!


Ruby Tuesdays:


Sweet Tomatoes:

Longhorn Steak House:

Red Robin:

Ted’s Montana Grill:

Golden Corral:

Seasons 52:

Burger King:

Taco Bell:




Stevi B’s:

Little Caesars:

Pizza Hut:

Papa John’s:


Cracker Barrel:





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