1. Headline
  1. Headline

Video: Don’t pass the salt, please!

  1. Transcript of: Don’t pass the salt, please!

    ANN CURRY, co-host: Back now at a 7:43. This morning on EAT THIS, NOT THAT !, avoiding restaurant meals loaded with salt. A high- sodium diet can wreak havoc on your blood pressure, and the more salty foods you eat, the more you crave. So Dave Zinczenko is the author of "Eat This, Not That! 2012 : The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution," and he's here to give us some advice. David , good morning.

    Mr. DAVID ZINCZENKO (Author, "Eat This, Not That! 2012"): Good morning, Ann.

    CURRY: You are the salt of the earth , a man worth his salt. But now you're going to pour salt on an open wound and tell us what's wrong with salt.

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: Yeah, well, here's the problem. Your high blood pressure is not your fault. The fact is only 10 percent of the salt that you're consuming is coming from your salt shaker . Eighty percent is coming from food processors, with the biggest culprit being restaurants. So we only need about 12 to 1400 milligrams a day. We're getting -- 2400 should be the max and we're averaging 3400 milligrams of sodium a day.

    CURRY: OK, so before I dig into these chips...

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: Yeah.

    CURRY: ...you're going to tell me why I should.

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: Right.

    CURRY: And we're going to start now with these restaurants that you say are the major culprit. The first is the Chili Cheese Nachos at Applebee 's.

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: Yeah.

    CURRY: A sodium calamity.

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: Yeah, this the appetizer that helps your cardiologist afford his house in Aruba . The problem here is that we've got 1680 calories, OK? It's got 4,270 milligrams of sodium , OK? This would be, Ann -- are you ready? -- the sodium equivalent of these 18 1/2 orders of Taco Bell 's Cheesy Nachos , OK?

    CURRY: OK. That's...

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: Right here. The problem is that's a perfect storm. Everything is salty there, the tortilla chips, the salsa, the cheese, everything. So...

    CURRY: OK, 1,680 -- oh.

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: So you're much better off with the Southern barbecue wings.

    CURRY: Uh-huh .

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: OK, this is great. They're neither salty nor sweet, which means you are going to be adding 1,000 fewer calories to your waistline and 3,000 fewer milligrams of sodium straining your heart.

    CURRY: But who would have thunk it, that this is better for you, saltwise at least, than this one?

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: And here's the thing: I'd rather eat the wings.

    CURRY: OK, so that's at least finally some good news from you.

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: There you go.

    CURRY: OK, it's about time.

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: Way to go Applebee 's.

    CURRY: Now the -- at IHOP you're going to take a look...

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: Yeah.

    CURRY: ...at the Thick-Cut Bone-In Ham Eggs .

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: Yeah. Arteries are getting nervous just looking at it. This is 4,300...

    CURRY: There are a lot of reasons why that is bad.

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: ... milligrams of sodium right here. Again, it's two to three days' worth for breakfast, OK? So this would be the sodium equivalent of these 32 strips, nearly three dozen, strips of bacon, OK? You -- this is just the stuff that you should know. This is why we have EAT THIS, NOT THAT !, so you know the stuff going into these restaurants. So...

    CURRY: Right, so we can actually eat this...

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: Yes.

    CURRY: ...instead of this.

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: Well, no.

    CURRY: No.

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: Not all 32.

    CURRY: OK.

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: You can have a couple but, no, you can eat this right here.

    CURRY: This.

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: This right here is the FIT Turkey Bacon Omelette with fresh fruit. OK, so it's 400 calories, so you're saving 700 and you're saving almost 4,000 milligrams of sodium . And the fruit is providing sodium -neutralizing potassium, which is great.

    CURRY: Very good. OK, now, I'm apparently loving talking to you too much because I'm going too slowly, because we only have a minute left.


    CURRY: So let's talk about P.J. Chang 'stheir Double Pan-Fried Noodles .

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: Yeah, yeah, pack...

    CURRY: Seven thousand nine hundred milligrams of sodium .

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: Yeah, pack your ACE inhibitors . Six hundred -- this is the equivalent, the sodium equivalent, of 600 Ruffles, OK? So if you're going to go there, what you need to do is get the Garlic Noodles . It's 700 calories. You're going to save 1,000, but you're also going to be saving 6500 milligrams of sodium , OK?

    CURRY: Good for your heart.

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: So that is like a week's worth of sodium . The fact that a restaurant could do that is amazing to me.

    CURRY: All right. Finally, we're at Chili's .

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: Finally. OK.

    CURRY: And we're looking at the Jalapeno Smokehouse Bacon Burger .

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: OK, the problem here is it's 6600 milligrams of sodium , OK? That is the equivalent of six and a half Big Macs . So here's what you -- if you want a burger, OK, go to Chili's . On your way to Chili's , stop at McDonald's , eat a Big Mac , then go, OK, to Chili's and order the Caribbean Salad with chicken. You're still going to be saving thousands of milligrams of sodium and a bunch of calories.

    CURRY: All right, Dave Zinczenko .

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: Did it in a minute.

    CURRY: You did it, and you did a great job.

    Mr. ZINCZENKO: Thank you.

    CURRY: No more salty snacks for us.

updated 10/14/2011 8:33:55 AM ET 2011-10-14T12:33:55

Turns out, you most definitely can have too much of a good thing, and that thing is sodium. This mineral plays a critical role in a healthy diet and maintains the correct balance of fluids in the body, but only in small, judicious doses. Unfortunately, the average American consumes more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium every day—more than 1,000 milligrams more than the absolute maximum amount we ought to be taking in, and nearly 3,000 milligrams more than the amount our bodies need to function normally!

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. Hillary Clinton: Granddaughter led me 'to speed up' political plans

      Clinton said she is inspired to keep working to ensure that Charlotte and her generation are provided equal opportunities ...

    2. Lauren Hill, inspirational college basketball player, dies
    3. Marathon dad's victories help raise money for son with spina bifida
    4. Will it work on Vale? Savannah tries tissue sleeping trick at home
    5. Listen to the chilling 911 call Sandra Bullock made during break-in

Why is this so dangerous? Well, for starters, a high-sodium diet can wreak havoc on your blood pressure, increasing your risk of heart attack or stroke. And frighteningly, researchers at the Scripps Research Institute found that the effects of sodium over-consumption eerily resembled those of drug addiction—meaning that the more we eat, the more we crave. That means salty foods tax you twice: They cause an initial strain on your cardiovascular system, and by causing you to eat more salt-riddled calories, they hit you again around the waistline.

So here’s the question: How do you protect yourself from the dangers of sodium? Avoid the saltshaker? Nope—The salt you add at the table has little effect on overall sodium intake. The real culprit is restaurant food, which supplies a staggering 80 percent of the sodium in the American diet. If you want to protect yourself, start right here, by avoiding these sodium-soaked restaurant meals.

Eat This, Not That! 2012

#1 Not That
Applebee’s Chili Cheese Nachos
1,680 calories
107 g fat (40 g saturated, 2.5 g trans)
4,270 mg sodium

SODIUM EQUIVALENT: 18.5 orders of Taco Bell’s Cheesy Nachos!

Eat This
Classic Wings, Southern Barbecue
660 calories
35 g fat (9 g saturated)
1,060 mg sodium

The fundamental problem with nachos is that most of the ingredients are already fully sodium-saturated foods. Chili, cheese sauce, tortilla chips, and salsa are all notoriously high in sodium, so together they create a perfect storm of blood-pressure spiking, waistline-expanding damage. Pair all of that with Applebee’s mammoth portion size, and you’re looking at roughly two days’ worth of sodium.

HEART HELPER: The best defense is a good offense. Neutralize the heart-straining effects of sodium with the 5 Best Foods for a Stronger Heart.

#2Not That
IHOP Thick-Cut Bone-In Ham & Eggs
1,170 calories
61 g fat (19 g saturated)
4,310 mg sodium

SODIUM EQUIVALENT: 32 strips of Oscar Mayer Center Cut Bacon!

Eat This
Simple & Fit Turkey Bacon Omelette with Fresh Fruit
420 calories
20 g fat (9 g saturated)
720  mg sodium

Breakfast might be the most important meal of the day, but since when should a breakfast contain nearly two spoonfuls of pure salt? This one plate provides your body with as much sodium as it would need over the course of a full week! You can still indulge your salt craving, but opt for the more conservative Turkey Bacon Omelette instead. Not only are the levels far more reasonable, but the fruit side dish is filled with sodium-neutralizing potassium.

#3 Not That
PF Chang’s Pork Double Pan Fried Noodles
1,652 calories
84 g fat (12 g saturated)
7,900 mg sodium

SODIUM EQUIVALENT: Five full-size bags of Ruffles potato chips—that’s roughly 600 chips!

Eat This
Garlic Noodles
712 calories
16 g fat (4 g saturated)
1,440 mg sodium

Sodium has long been the Achilles tendon of Asian cuisine. Despite being commendably low in calories and studded with vegetables and lean meats, Asian food is prone to massive sodium spikes. PF Chang’s menu is no exception—it’s a frontrunner for the title of saltiest menu in the country. Although any of the dumplings or the steamed Buddha’s Feast come in at under 1,000 milligrams a plate, the Garlic Noodles are your safest bet among the starchier options. Be sure to pack your ACE inhibitors, or better yet, bone up on the 9 Ways to Eat Healthy at the Chinese Restaurant.

#4 Not That
Chili’s Jalapeno Smokehouse Bacon Burger with Ranch
2,210 calories
144 g fat (46 g saturated)
6,600 mg sodium

SODIUM EQUIVALENT: 6.5 McDonald’s Big Macs!

Eat This
Caribbean Salad with Grilled Chicken
610 calories
25 g fat (4 g saturated)
800 mg sodium

PF Chang’s may claim the menu item with the most sodium, but Chili’s secures the title of “Saltiest Restaurant” simply because this salad is the only meal with fewer than one thousand milligrams to be found on its menu. In fact, the vast majority is populated by items ranging between 3,000 and 4,500 milligrams per plate! Know that if you’re going to Chili’s, your blood pressure is in for a rocky ride.

Beware of diet menus! While restaurants may lower calorie and fat totals for these items, they rarely reduce the sodium—the average count for one of Chili’s Guiltless Grill options is 2,175 milligrams per plate! For other corrupt “health” foods, check out the 10 Worst “Healthy” Foods in America.

Related Links

10 New Restaurant Survival Strategies

The 10 Best and Worst Restaurants in America

7 Fast-Food Meals Under 350 Calories

20 Scariest Food Facts

© 2012 Rodale Inc. All rights reserved.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. @HillaryClinton/twitter

    Hillary Clinton: Granddaughter led me 'to speed up' political plans

    4/10/2015 3:58:42 PM +00:00 2015-04-10T15:58:42
  1. Courtesy Bryan Morseman

    Marathon dad's victories help raise money for son with spina bifida

    4/10/2015 5:54:50 PM +00:00 2015-04-10T17:54:50
  1. YouTube

    8 great celebrity impressions of other celebrities

    4/10/2015 6:44:22 PM +00:00 2015-04-10T18:44:22