Low sodium eating on the road

I try to keep sodium under 500 mg per meal, to avoid having inner ear problems. That's not a problem at home or at work, but when I'm on the road, eating healthily can be challenging.

Lately, I'm also avoiding sugar and flour. That makes eating out even more tricky. In the lists below, I've crossed out foods I used to eat but am avoiding now. I used to rely on Lara bars and cereal for snacks, but now it's Greek yogurt and nuts (sometimes accompanied by a few berries or pomegranate seeds). No more potatoes, sweet or otherwise.

I've made somewhat complicated "what I can eat" handouts in English, German, and Czech to give to restaurant workers. Recently I created English, Indonesian, and Chinese handouts where I tried to simplify the no-salt instructions but added no sugar/flour demands. Let me know if you want to look at any of these.

The LYFE Kitchen and True Food Kitchen chains aren't perfect (the steamed vegetables at LYFE were surprisingly salty), but they're a start.

So what else can I eat when I'm not at home? Here are my standbys:
  • Bread I've made (but not too much of it, since it does have salt)
    • Optionally with unsalted tuna fish salad (I can find unsalted tuna fish at Trader Joe's) 
    • Or with unsalted peanut butter and jelly (unsalted PB is also at TJ's)
  • Salad, either with no dressing or with oil and/or vinegar
  • Vietnamese fresh spring roll (no sauce)
  • Unsalted, unmarinated steak
  • Unsalted burger with no bun (lettuce wrap and tomato; Five Guys and In-N-Out are good at this!)
  • Sashimi
  • Teriyaki chicken/salmon/beef with no sauce
    • The chicken is a little risky because it's usually brined (meaning up to 100 mg per oz), but it hasn't killed me yet.
    • Interestingly, brined pork tends to absorb less sodium than brined chicken (for a total of ~75 mg per oz).
  • Fried tofu (without sauce)
  • Unsalted eggs (omelette, over easy, hard or soft boiled, etc.) with optional add ons:
    • swiss cheese
    • goat cheese
    • unsalted vegetables
  • Crudite (no dip)
  • Fresh fish, cooked without sauce or salt
  • Unsalted rice cakes with unsalted peanut butter
  • Baby food (sounds weird, but it's portable and low sodium—good in a pinch!)
I avoid sauces, dressings, breads (whether yeasted or quick), and baked goods (except small cookies) due to hidden sodium (salt, baking soda, baking powder). Other sources of hidden sodium are canned vegetables (tomatoes, beans, ...), condiments, ... Almost any pre-prepared food is likely to have a huge amount of salt. Salt adds flavor and shelf life, so it's obvious why manufacturers love it.

Dessert is easier, as long as you avoid baked goods and the weird trend of putting salt into sweets. Some of my favorites:
  • Creme brulee
  • Hot chocolate (with lowfat milk)
  • Flourless/molten chocolate cake
  • Pudding
  • Chinese tofu with ginger syrup (Hong Kong Lounge #2 in San Francisco has this; #1 does not)
  • Dark chocolate anything, as long as it's not mixed with a lot of something savory like salt, bacon, cheese, ...
  • Northern European salty licorice made with ammonium chloride, not table salt

Fast food

If I'm stuck with fast food, then I usually go for salads and bun-less burgers. If I'm feeling naughty, I'll have some saltless french fries.


In-N-Out nutritional info confirms that these are sub-500mg choices:

  • Hamburger protein style (370 mg)
    • Adding salt-free fries should be fine; I don't like the double-fried version—too dry.
    • Avoid milk shakes; they have a lot of sodium (270-320 mg).


McDonald's full menu explorer lets you see sodium by clicking the bulleted list (as opposed to grid) button. You can also sort by sodium content. (Note: The salad sodium info doesn't include dressing.) You can customize ingredients and get dressing info by clicking the menu item. You can also download detailed nutrition info. Possibilities:
  • Apple slices (0 mg)
  • Side salad (10 mg)
  • Gogurt (35 mg)
  • Fruit n Yogurt parfait (80 mg)
  • 1% milk jug (125 mg)
  • Premium southwest salad without chicken (190 mg; with creamy southwest dressing, 490 mg)
  • Hamburger (490 mg)
    • removing pickle slices saves 40 mg
    • removing ketchup saves 80 mg
    • removing mustard saves 10 mg
    • removing the bun would save ~240 mg
    • the beef patty is 125 mg
  • 4-piece chicken mcnuggets (360 mg)
  • fruit & maple oatmeal (160 mg)
    • supposedly, without brown sugar the sodium drops to 115 mg. Hmmmm....
  • cinnamon melts (370 mg)
  • hash browns (310 mg)
  • french fries (small: 130 mg; medium: 190 mg; large: 290 mg)
  • Vanilla or strawberry McCafĂ© shake, small (160 mg)
  • Chocolate McCafĂ© shake, small (240 mg; medium is 300; large is 380)
  • Smoothie (medium is 40-60 mg; large is 60-80 mg)

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