On average, foods from fast-food restaurants contain 1,848 mg of sodium per 1,000 calories and foods from dine-in restaurants contain 2,090 mg of sodium per 1,000 calories. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommends the general population limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day.
Health department dietitians should help restaurants analyze the sodium content of their foods and recommend lower sodium ingredients, according to the report “From menu to mouth: Opportunities for sodium reduction in restaurants” found in the CDC journal Preventing Chronic Disease. The report also said restaurants should post nutrition information, including sodium content, at the order counter and on menus or offer lower sodium items at lower cost. Health departments and restaurants should explain to food service staff why lower sodium foods are healthier and explain how to prepare them.
The CDC report mentions success in Philadelphia. The health department there worked with 206 restaurants to create a healthy Chinese take-out initiative. Participating restaurants used lower sodium ingredients and created lower sodium recipes. Analyses of two dishes offered by 20 of the restaurants showed a 20 percent sodium reduction after nine months.
“The bottom line is that it’s both possible and life-saving to reduce sodium, and this can be done by reducing, replacing and reformulating,” said Tom Frieden, M.D., director of the CDC. “When restaurants rethink how they prepare food and the ingredients they choose to use, healthier options become routine for customers.”