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Video: When salt attacks – in restaurants

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    >>> morning on eat this, not that, a salt attack. many meals at your favorite restaurants are packed with sodium and that can spell serious health trouble. david zinczenko is author of the eat this, not that series 2011 and the new no diet diet. good morning. nice to see you.

    >> good morning, matt.

    >> we have done seg. s and a lot of times we are dealing with fat and calories but sometimes the meals have enough sodium to sink a ship. that's what we are concentrating on today.

    >> for sure. people think of fat and calories as the punch of bad nutrition. salt is a sucker punch you don't see coming. 5% of the salt we eat comes from home. that's it.

    >> what do doctors and nutritionists say is the proper amount of sodium intake per day?

    >> if you're african-american, over 50, around 1,500 milligrams. otherwise, 2,300 which is just a teaspoon of salt. we average 3,400.

    >> 2,300 milligrams. keep that number in your minds as we go through the meals. starting with ruby tuesday's mediterranean shrimp pasta. it has 3,900 milligrams of salt. that's 50% more than the average person should have in a whole day.

    >> and i think they accidentally boiled the noodles in the mediterranean sea . you're talking here about a dish that has over 1,000 calleries and 4,000 milligrams of sodium. it would be the sodium equivalent of 11 large orders of french fries .

    >> not good. ruby tuesday has the grilled petite sirloin with steamed broccoli and white cheddar potatoes. what's the count?

    >> it's genius because it's only 460 calories and 900 milligrams of sodium. so you are cutting 60% of the calories, 70% of the sodium and 60% of the fat. you're getting a really nutritious, protein-filled meal.

    >> on to ihop, the thick cut bone in ham and eggs has nearly double the recommended daily amount of sodium.

    >> this is another day in the salt mines here. i think "thick" refers to the layer of salt. what you get here is not only more than two days worth of sodium, but you get 37 servings of planter's peanuts. this is the sodium equivalent right here.

    >> but ihop has a healthier alternative. this is the simple and fit turkey bacon omelet. only 730 milligrams of salt.

    >> what's great is you cut out 3600 milligrams immediately and drop several hundred calories.

    >> this wille get attention. the applebee's weight watchers chipotle lime chicken. you hear weight watchers and think it's good for you.

    >> salt is sneaky. this is not called salt watchers because this has 5,000 milligrams of sodium. under 500 calories but you have 5,000 milligrams of sodium. you're replacing fat with salt for flavor.

    >> that's the equivalent of these chips?

    >> 31 servings of ruffles.

    >> you can have their half grilled chicken caesar salad .

    >> jennifer hudson should sing about the half order. it's 810 milligrams of sodium, 400 calories and just five grams of saturated fat .

    >> yeah, but it's still -- all right.

    >> and the carbs are going from 51 grams to 12.

    >> here's the killer. this is pf change's double pan fried noodles with pork. i had to look at it twice. this has 7900 milligrams of sodium.

    >> yes. it's the sodium equivalent of 263 triscuits. it's double pan fried . it's not bad enough to do it once. they have to pan fry it again. if you're at pf change's and you don't want the lot's wife special that will turn you into a pillar of salt, you should get the buddha's feast and you will be smiling as you cut 90% of the sodium out of the meal.

    >> it's not just fat and calories. look at labels, check the sodium content. david, good to see you.

updated 4/5/2011 9:23:50 PM ET 2011-04-06T01:23:50

Imagine pouring one and a half teaspoons of salt directly into your mouth. Can you taste it? Blah, blech! You’d shed an ocean of tears trying to choke down those tongue-tingling crystals.

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Yet, if you’re a typical American, you eat that much salt every single day. And that’s one primary reason why 50 percent of us are considered at risk for high blood pressure.

I know, that sounds impossible — you seldom if ever reach for the salt shaker, right? Well, you don’t have to: Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that most of us consume about 3,400 mg of sodium a day, but only 5 percent of it comes from home cooking. Some occurs in foods naturally, but the overwhelming majority of the sodium you eat — 77 percent — comes from foods sold in supermarkets and restaurants. Heart disease is the number-one killer of Americans, and sodium is one of the primary culprits.

We should be eating no more than 2,300 mg a day, and less — about 1,500 mg — if we’re at risk for high blood pressure. And yet, while researching my latest book, The Eat This, Not That! No-Diet Diet, I uncovered countless restaurant meals with one, two, even three days' worth of salt in them. Think I’m exaggerating? Take a peek at the saltiest dishes coming from America’s kitchens.

Ruby Tuesday Mediterranean Shrimp Pasta
3,933 mg sodium
1,086 calories
63 g fat

Sodium Equivalent: 11 Large Orders of McDonald’s French Fries

Somebody needs to tell Ruby Tuesday that to make “Mediterranean” pasta, you don’t need to actually boil the noodles in Mediterranean seawater. Ruby Tuesday makes only one pasta dish with fewer than 2,000 mg of sodium (almost an entire day's worth!), and it has only two pasta dishes with fewer than 3,000 mg. The other four pasta dishes on the menu each have more than 3,000 mg.

Eat This Instead!
Ruby Tuesday Plain Grilled Petite Sirloin with Steamed Broccoli and White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
987 mg sodium
460 calories
22 g fat

IHOP Thick-Cut Bone-In Ham & Eggs
4,310 mg sodium
1,170 calories
61 g fat (19 g saturated)

Sodium Equivalent: 37 servings of Planter’s Cocktail Peanuts (that’s more than three 12-oz cans!)

IHOP is another chain known for egregious sodium levels. Even foods that sound relatively sodium-free are swimming in the stuff. Take an order of Buttermilk Pancakes. One order — 5 pancakes — has 2,640 mg sodium. Things turn especially ugly when you start adding meat to the plate. You’d be wise to avoid any dish with steak or ham, which consistently contribute to a total of more than 2,000 mg per dish. 

Eat This Instead!
IHOP Simple & Fit Turkey Bacon Omelette with Fresh Fruit
730 mg sodium
420 calories
21 g fat (10 g saturated)

Applebee's Weight Watchers Chipotle Lime Chicken
4,990 mg sodium
490 calories
12 g fat (2 g saturated)

Sodium Equivalent: 31 servings of Ruffles (that’s more than two “Family Size” bags!)

Avoiding salt at Applebee's is nearly impossible. Not even the “healthy” selections pass muster. The six items on the Under 550 Calories menu average 2,341 mg of sodium per entree. The five items on the Weight Watchers menu average 2,448 mg. Even the side dishes are dangerous. A side of Loaded Mashed Potatoes will cost you 1,340 mg, and a side of Broccoli Cheddar Soup will cost you 1,690. If you order anything off this menu, you'd be wise to stick to sodium-free foods for the rest of the day.

Eat This Instead!
Applebee's Asiago Peppercorn Steak
1,520 mg sodium
390 calories
14 g fat (6 g saturated)

Applebee's Appetizer Sampler
6,830 mg sodium
2,590 calories
173 g fat (54 g saturated)

Sodium Equivalent: 370 Funyuns (that's more than four bags of 'em!)

Restaurant appetizer samplers are notoriously riddled with sodium, but Applebee's is a full-blown tour de force of heart-stopping potential. Piled onto this plate are a bacon and cheese quesadilla, fried cheese sticks, spinach and artichoke dip and chips, and boneless buffalo wings. Just one of those things is bad enough, but add all four and you have three days' worth of sodium and more than an entire day of calories — in just one appetizer!

Eat This Instead!
Applebee's Classic Southern BBQ Wings
1,070 mg sodium
660 calories
35 g fat (9 g saturated)

P.F. Chang's Double Pan-Fried Noodles with Pork
7,900 mg sodium
1,652 calories
84 g fat (12 g saturated)

Sodium Equivalent: 263 Triscuit crackers (that’s 4.3 boxes!)

PF Chang's menu is probably the saltiest in America; even a bowl of Hot and Sour Soup has 5,000 mg. For that half of the population that's supposed to max out at 1,500 mg daily sodium, the Double Pan-Fried Noodles with Pork harbors more than five times the limit. Even for those in the higher tier, it still represents three-and-a-half days worth of sodium consumption. If you end up at Chang's, let the Steamed Buddha Bowl be your safety plate. But remember: It's got to be steamed. Order it stir-fried and the same dish suddenly leaps to 2,740 mg sodium. Yikes.

Eat This Instead!
PF Chang's Steamed Buddha's Feast Lunch Bowl (brown rice) with Egg Drop Soup
800 mg sodium
480 calories
7 g fat (0 g saturated)

Check out the all-new Eat This, Not That! No-Diet Diet!
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