banner16

Posts Tagged ‘restaurant’

Cioppino: San Francisco’s Seafood Stew

My wife Amanda and I love to travel and walk around new places, eat new foods, and experience a bit of different culture (even if that culture is just a another region of the U.S.). This Fall we spent a week in San Francisco and its surrounds. One of our favorite regional dishes is a seafood stew called “cioppino.” It’s a spicy, tomato-based sauce that’s loaded with seafood (mostly shellfish), sometimes a few vegetables, but mostly fish. It’s delicious, there are a lot of variations, and it’s fairly low-calorie, especially if you split an entree portion of it with someone, as my wife and I tend to do.

Did I mention variations? All of the cioppinos we’ve had have had mussels and some kind of white fish (although one replaced the white fish with salmon which was also excellent). Most have clams and shrimp. A couple of them had calamari rings and crab. Most are served with garlic bread.

We had cioppino twice during our first time in the Bay Area together back in the Summer of 2009, at Tadich Grill (which claims to be the oldest restaurant in California), which was our first cioppino, and at the Fisherman’s Wharf Boudin restaurant, which was better. While it’s hard to compare our recently sampled dishes with those we tried three years ago, our second time around in San Francisco we wanted to plan better. This time we did some research to find out some of the best places in SFO to try cioppino, and we were not disappointed (although some were clearly better than others).

All in all, we tried five different cioppinos during our seven day stay. We ate the shit out of cioppino.

Beretta

1199 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
http://berettasf.com/
Cioppino price: $19

This unassuming bistro in the heart of The Mission featured the best cioppino of our trip. Beretta features great craft cocktails, Italian small plates, salads, bruschetta, and pizza. They only offer one entree per day. On Tuesday (at least when we went) their offering is cioppino. Because of that, and based on reviews that claimed it the best cioppino in San Francisco (which thus means best anywhere), we made a special trip.

Where Beretta excelled was in their broth, which was spicier (not spicy hot, just nicely spiced) and more delicious than any of the others we had. They added some fresh basil at the end which was unique to Beretta’s cioppino. Sure, they had mussels like every other cioppino, but they also added calamari which was a great addition. The portion size was average (i.e. a large two quart bowl) and Amanda and I split it, along with a panzanella salad.

img-baretta
Beretta: the best cioppino we’ve had (other than the one we made ourselves).

Sotto Mare

552 Green Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
http://www.sottomaresf.com/
Cioppino price: $38 (enough for two)

Sotto Mare is a charming little neighborhood Italian restaurant in the North Beach section of San Francisco. We went on a Thursday night and it was packed with locals and tourists alike. While we waited for a table the hostess offered us a glass of house white or red wine, which we accepted and enjoyed while waiting for our table, which turned out to be at the counter.

We ate our last cioppino this trip at Sotto Mare and it was either first or second best, depending on what you mean by “best.” While Beretta had the tastiest broth, Sotto Mare wins by just the sheer volume of seafood. Their “enough for two” crab cioppino arrived in a massive silver soup cauldron and must’ve contained a couple pounds of shellfish.

They call theirs “The ‘Best Damn Crab Cioppino’ with seafood” and they’re not just boasting. Our cioppino did indeed contain an entire crab, chopped up, and pre-cracked so we shouldn’t have to use a cracker to pop the shell.

We sat at the counter by the kitchen where we enjoyed dinner and a show, although it was very very hot there. Still, the festive atmosphere, watching the waitstaff abuse the happy-go-lucky cooks who laughed as they were being yelled at, and the happy slurps of our fellow diners, most of whom were also eating cioppino, was worth the trip.

Follow up cioppino with a cappuccino and a cannoli at one of the classic cafes in North Beach afterwards (if you can eat another bite after stuffing two pounds of shellfish down your gullet) and browse through the stacks at the City Lights bookstore. It’s all very romantic.

img-sotto
Sotto Mare’s massive silver cauldron of cioppino.

Scoma’s

1 Al Scoma Way
San Francisco, CA 94133
http://www.scomas.com/
Cioppino price: $39

Scoma’s at Fisherman’s Wharf offers what they call the “Lazy Man’s Cioppino” because most of the fish has already been shelled for you. They offer the recipe on their web site (although you may want to make my cioppino recipe, coming soon, instead, as it was better). Scoma’s was the most touristy of places we tried, but what do you expect, they’re located at Fisherman’s Wharf, the most touristy of San Francisco locations.

Scoma’s cioppino is very good (as it should be, they’ve been serving it for years) but at $20 more expensive than Beretta for a similar portion, it feels like you’re paying for the location (and we didn’t even get to sit at a table overlooking the bay).

img-scomas
Scoma’s traditional cioppino.

Sam’s Anchor Cafe

27 Main Street
Belvedere Tiburon, CA 94920
http://www.samscafe.com/
Cioppino price: $26

Sam’s was the worst cioppino of our trip, and it was still really good, so we did pretty well. It wasn’t on our list of the best cioppinos in San Francisco – we just happened to be visiting Tiburon via the ferry and it looked like a nice place to stop and have lunch (although our waitress said that their cioppino has been featured on the Food Network – twice). The price for the lunch portion of cioppino was the same as their dinner menu, so maybe it’s the same exact dish. It was an ample amount for one person.

Their menu claims it includes “dungeness crab, clams, prawns, mussels, fresh fish, in a spicy tomato broth” but there wasn’t much crab (although it does tend to disintegrate in the broth).

Of all of the restaurants we visited to try cioppino, Sam’s had the best view.

It’s nice to take a ferry somewhere – Tiburon, Sausalito, Larkspur, Angel Island – and just get out on the bay. Tiburon was a cute, relaxed place to visit and walk around. It’s not as crassly commercial as Sausalito, but then there’s not as much to see either, unless you’re into natural beauty.

img-sams
Sam’s Anchor Cafe in Tiburon – cioppino by the bay.

Catch

2362 Market Street (between 16th St & 17th St)
San Francisco, CA 94114
http://www.catchsf.com/
Cioppino price: $22

Catch in the Castro is a lively upscale seafood place that technically doesn’t offer cioppino, but instead has a “seafood stew” that just so happens to resemble cioppino in most ways.

We ate our first cioppino this trip at Catch (after seeing Vertigo in the historic Castro Theater, which was awesome). Catch’s version is very good, although by the end of the trip I think this one ranked second to last.

Their cioppino includes – aside from the usual tomato broth – mussels, clams, shrimp, scallops, crab, and some sort of white fish. It was very tasty, and the broth was a little more interesting than all but Beretta’s (although the chorizo broth that accompanied the mussels appetizer was so good we couldn’t stop drinking it).

img-catch
Catch’s seafood stew, which is basically cioppino.

Cioppino is such a simple dish, inspired by the Italian fisherman that settled in San Francisco, lived in North Beach, and shaped the local cuisine.

It’s easy enough to make at home, and I foresee cioppino being a regular staple of our weekend dinners.

Healthy Restaurant Options When You Must Dine Out

It’s easy to be down on the restaurant industry for their massive amounts of fat & salt in most dishes, but there are healthier choices out there if you’re willing to look for them.

When eating out with others I find that it’s actually easier to eat healthily because most people that I dine with know I’ve lost weight, and know that I’m still working to lose more. So there’s a certain macho bravado with ordering the healthiest meal at the table. I’m sure some people are annoyed when I make When Harry Met Sally-style special requests to cut back on the salt & fat, put the sauce on the side, make the omelette with egg whites (sometimes – usually I’ll just eat whole eggs), or substitute a salad or side of fruit for hashbrowns or fries[1].

Strategies for Eating

Eating is such a pleasurable activity, and one downside of Clean Livin’ is that it makes it more of a chore. You’re no longer just eating whatever for the pure enjoyment of your food, but instead planning an eating strategy wherein you’re mentally calculating every calorie, nutrient, and figuring out what you should be eating instead of what you want to eat. That’s the opposite of fun. That’s work.

Once you’ve learned a few tricks, though, you can dine, if not with reckless abandon, then at least with the confidence that you’re doing the best that you can. Passing on the fries is a difficult moment in any eater’s life. Let’s take the sting out of feeling like you’re depriving yourself.

  • Back Yourself into a Corner – Instead of eating the bread, getting a few drinks, an appetizer, unhealthy side dish, an entrée, and then dessert – get just one of those things in addition to your entrée. You can mix it up – one meal, get an appetizer. Another, go for your favorite dessert. It really sucks to spend your calorie budget on high-calorie foods that you don’t even really like that much, so if you’re going to splurge, ensure you make the most of it. As an American, I’m all about maximizing my enjoyment, making sure that everything is always the best it can possibly be.
  • Gratis Schmatis – We sure do love things that are free. Skip the bread basket and butter (unless that’s your favorite thing), popcorn, or whatever other freebies they bring you to get you eating as soon as possible.
  • You Booze, You Can’t Lose – Johnny Cochran rhyme aside, alcohol contains more calories per gram than any foodstuff other than fat, so be careful to not drink the equivalent of an entire meal.

Recommended Things to Eat

Since people are always asking me what I eat, as if there’s a magical diet that will make you lose weight, I’m going to be specific about things that I order in restaurants. Granted, you won’t lose weight as fast eating out a lot, since you have much less control over how a dish is prepared, and what ingredients go into it, but I like restaurants and I can eat out and still lose weight if I’m smart about it.

When I want to eat out but don’t want to blow through two days of calories in a single meal, I’ve made a mental (and now written) list of go-to foods that are reasonably healthy. With these choices you still have to watch things (sauces, side dishes, preparation method) but it’s easier to eat right when you eat the “more right” things. You know how I am about making the right choice the easy choice.

Sushi

img-tuna

If you go easy on the soy sauce, skip the maki rolls loaded with fried breadcrumbs and mayonnaise, and eat only a small bit of white rice, sushi bars can be an excellent (albeit expensive) source of lean protein. I tend to stick with salmon, tuna, and other fish high in omega–3 fatty acids (since they’re known to help lower cholesterol). Miso soup, while high in sodium, is full of all sorts of beneficial compounds, and if I’m going to have anything unhealthy at a Japanese restaurant, miso is where I’ll blow it, which isn’t so bad.

Watch Out For: Soy sauce, which is essentially a flavored salt. Avoid “spicy” anything (since they make it spicy by adding chili oil to mayo – yes, fat & fat), vegetables prepared in the “tempura” style (i.e. breaded and deep-fried), and the fancier maki rolls that are stuffed with things like fried shrimp or cream cheese.

Broiled or Poached Seafood

img-sea-bass

Ask for it without butter, as most restaurants will glaze the fish with fat so it gets a nicer crust when they stick it under the salamander to cook.

Shrimp and scallops are excellent sources of lean protein. Don’t worry about the cholesterol in shrimp, especially in the small quantity you’ll be getting in a dish at a restaurant. Just be sure that it’s simply prepared without a rich, fatty sauce.

Avoid: Fish that’s battered, breaded, or otherwise fried, or served in “garlic butter” or some other heavy sauce.

img-sexy-mexican

Salad

Oh, restaurant salad, you’re such a tease. Salads offer the illusion of being healthy, but most salads on a restaurant’s menu get tarted-up with cheese, bacon, fatty dressing, croutons, and other unhealthy things that largely negate the nutritional benefit of the vegetables. Oh, I could write another whole post on how salads are often higher in calories than a burger and fries.

Get the salad with the most interesting greens or other vegetables, dip your fork in the dressing (that you’re getting on the side), and don’t be afraid to be annoying to your server and ask for it without the offending bits. Personally I’m a big fan of a beet salad with goat cheese, since beets are delicious and goat cheese is expensive enough that they tend to give you only a few crumbles. I love that beet salads also often come with walnuts, although a lot of places candy them first, which sullies their health benefits.

Since vegetables tend to be lower in calories, and greens are cheap, you can eat a lot of them. Fill up on the dark, leafy greens and go easy on non-vegetable toppings and dressing.

Favorite Healthy Salad Ingredients: arugula, field greens, avocado, grilled chicken breast, steak, shrimp, tuna fish, fruit, beets, goat cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, shredded parmesan, olives, feta cheese, capers, bell peppers, jalapeños, hot peppers.

Skip: Creamy or sweet dressings which are full of sugar & fat. Croutons, tortilla strips, or other deep-fried crunchy things. Fatty cheeses like bleu cheese, cheddar, or swiss.

Tacos

img-taco

Depending on the place, of course – having tortillas made with lard in the traditional method will add hundreds of calories to a meal that can otherwise be fairly low-cal, and even if you get steak, chicken, or shrimp on your taco, they tend to be lean and you don’t get much on each.

Squeeze some fresh lime juice on your taco for a huge kick of flavor for almost zero calories. Most hot sauces contain little more than vinegar, hot peppers, and salt, and are usually calorie-free as well while packing in a lot of flavor (and heat!).

Beware “fish tacos” as the traditional fish taco is battered, deep fried, and covered with mayonnaise and cheese. Some places will let you substitute a grilled fish, and you can always ask them to hold the mayo.

Skip: Crunchy fried hard-shell tacos. Anything covered in a sauce, like enchiladas. Mexican Coke (just because it has sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup doesn’t suddenly make it a health food).

Steak & Potatoes

A leaner cut of beef (think filet mignon, flank steak, or sirloin) and a baked potato (bonus points if you can get a baked sweet potato) and a side of some steamed or grilled vegetable like asparagus can be a pretty healthy meal (you don’t have to eat the entire potato, as the russets that most restaurants employ are gigantic).

Avoid: High-calorie sides of french fries, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, and the hollandaise sauce often served with the vegetable.

Falafel

Okay, so falafel balls are deep-fried, but usually in vegetable oil, and the falafel itself is porous and tends not to hold much oil after frying. Falafel (ground up, fried chickpea balls) are usually served or garnished with hummus, mediterranean salad, tabbouleh, and pickled vegetables, all of which have numerous health benefits. I enjoy a falafel sandwich in a pita from time to time, but if you get it as a platter instead you can save yourself 100 or so calories by skipping the pita.

No need to avoid the hummus or tahini sauce – the garbanzo bean mash and sesame seed tahini come together to form a complete protein. Generally, the combination of beans + seeds = good for you.

Also recommended: lentil soup, especially if it’s vegetarian.

Desserts

I’m not going to lie – very little of what I eat would be described as a “dessert” by most people. Having said that, I’ll have a post-dinner evening snack most nights, and while most of the time we’ll skip dessert when eating out, there are still some desserts that I’ll eat when out.

  • Frozen Yogurt – I especially enjoy the extra tart pro-biotic froyo from Pinkberry. Most frozen yogurt these days just tastes like soft serve vanilla ice cream (and isn’t much healthier or lower in calories) but some of the healthy frozen yogurt places do it right. The original should taste like yogurt, not vanilla. Pass on the toppings (yes, even the fruit, which is usually macerated in sugar).
  • Popcorn – I used to get a big tub of popcorn just about every time I went to the movies. Now I’ll get a small popcorn from time to time (without the artificial butter-flavored grease). If I’m going to eat popcorn I’d much rather make it at home where I can control the oil and especially the salt, but if you can get air-popped popcorn out that’s not heavily salted, go for it. Popcorn is high in fiber and very filling. Just be cautious of the movie theater since the average medium movie theater popcorn contains over 1,000 calories (without the “butter”).
  • Fruit – You may say that fruit isn’t a dessert, and that’s where we differ. I eat fruit most nights at home (and often for breakfast) and if I can get a fruit cup or side of fruit at breakfast I often will.
img-eggs

Eggs

The three most beautiful words in the English language are “Breakfast served anytime.”[2] I could eat breakfast foods for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a late night snack. Thankfully, my favorite breakfast food is also one of the healthiest: eggs.

I may have mentioned my love of eggs before. I especially love omelettes because the combinations of fillings can make what’s essentially the same dish taste completely different.

However: Sure, you need to avoid the side of hash browns, butter on toast, and fatty breakfast meats (although I’ll splurge to spend some calories on bacon or sausage sometimes), but if you want a nutritious meal that’s filling and satisfying, eggcept no substitute.

So I Just Shouldn’t Eat Out, Right?

If you’re careful you can eat out without torpedoing your fitness goals. Just remember to skip everything that’s delicious. I kid, but pick your battles. If you want a BLT get a BLT. Try eating just half of it. If you want a little extra kick in your salad, get the bleu cheese dressing every once in a while, count it in your food log, and eat more healthily the rest of the day.

Your daily caloric budget is yours to do with as you please. Enjoy yourself when eating out but a little moderation goes a long way, and restaurants are definitely working against your best health efforts.


  1. Thanks to the low-carb Atkins Diet that was popular a decade ago, a lot of restaurants have Atkins-friendly substitutions right on the menu. Sometimes there’s an extra charge for fruit instead of potatoes, but I’ll pay an extra buck to not eat a meal’s worth of calories in my side-dish. Then again, sometimes I’ll just get the potatoes, because they’re delicious.  ↩

  2. I love you, too.  ↩

Surviving Restaurant Food

Restaurants can be a minefield of mostly bad choices for someone trying to lose weight. Everything is loaded with salt & fat, and even if you’re counting calories, without knowing how much salt, butter, or other oil goes into the preparation of your dish (hint: it’s a lot more than you would imagine) you’re at a disadvantage.

img-salt

My wife and I sat at the “chef’s table” at a popular local restaurant once. It was a lot of fun, like having dinner and a show. We got to see many dishes being prepared, and were a bit startled to see an entire stick of butter go into a single serving side-dish that otherwise contained mostly vegetables. Yikes.

I enjoy eating in restaurants. I tend to order dishes with ingredients that are difficult to come by for the home chef, dishes that are difficult to prepare, or that have a long list of ingredients that it wouldn’t make sense to make at home. Eating out often also helped me to gain a tremendous amount of weight. I especially enjoy “fine dining” restaurants where the preparation of food is akin to an art form. These forays into haute cuisine are an annual tradition, though (at most) – not part of my regular diet.

Most of the time you’re not going to be eating at the best restaurants, but eating fast food on the go or grabbing a bite on the way to your next appointment. Getting delivery, fast food, or take out is “eating out” too. Just because you eat the fried chicken at home doesn’t make it any healthier. These days I tend to avoid any food served in a bucket.

I’ve noticed on days that I eat out, not only do I tend to go over my calorie budget, but I also tend to gain weight the next day. Even if I stay within my budget, if I eat out for dinner I tend to go up the next day, sometimes more than a pound or two. Since I know that you need to eat about 3,500 more calories than you burn to gain a single pound, even if I underestimated what I ate I’d still not be off by enough to warrant gaining a single pound, let alone more than one in a single day. So what happened?

Salt. Excess salt in your system makes you retain fluid because it messes with the water/salt balance that’s regulated by your kidneys. Since most restaurant food is salty, I’m more concerned with the salt than I am the fat, as it has more lasting effects (at least in the short term for the next day’s weigh-in).

When I talk about salt I mean standard table salt, sodium chloride, NaCl. The kind the girl with the yellow raincoat is standing under. Whether it’s finely ground, coarse, kosher, or comes from the sea, it’s all just good ol’ salt.

Salt of the Earth

One teaspoon of table salt contains 2,325 milligrams (mg) of sodium. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends no more than 2,300 mg per day for most adults, and no more than 1,500 mg for those over 51 or who have high blood pressure or kidney problems. How much do typical American’s consume instead? The CDC report on sodium claims that the U.S. average is 3,300 mg per day, and many restaurant dishes contain much more than that in a single meal.

You need some salt for your body to function correctly, but chances are you’re getting way more salt than you need. Most foods naturally contain small amounts of salt – even vegetables. Prepared foods are usually loaded with salt, though, as it’s a preservative, makes the food taste better (personally, I love salty things), and is a cheap ingredient to add to prepared foods.

The only way you can truly know how much salt is in your food is to cook it yourself. Well, that would be true if so many foods you buy at the store aren’t already heavily salted. Most supermarket chicken and pork are essentially brined with salt so that they stay juicier, longer. You know how if you eat a lot of salt you retain fluid? So does the meat you buy. Brining is a great way to protect meat during a long roasting or grilling process, but it does add extra salt to your diet, making your meat retain moisture too.

A Salient Point

Restaurants salt their food because salt is a natural flavor enhancer. It not only makes food taste salty – it makes other flavors taste better.

This Salt, like table salt, should also be avoided.

This Salt, like table salt, should also be avoided.

You may see a notice on a Chinese food menu that says “No MSG.” That’s an abbreviation for monosodium glutamate, another type of salt (table salt is sodium chloride, NaCl). They’re bragging about not adding MSG to their food because back in the day Chinese food in the United States was often prepared with insane amounts of MSG which causes all sorts of health issues associated with a high salt intake, like high blood pressure and heart disease.

The benefit of using MSG is that it’s a flavor enhancer like table salt, but it doesn’t taste salty. So you can eat a large amount of MSG without even realizing you’re consuming way more salt than your body can process.

When you eat more salt than your kidneys can deal with, it stays in your bloodstream causing your blood volume to increase, which means that your heart has to work harder to push more blood through your system. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of salt than others. I know when I’ve had too much salt because I can feel added pressure in my ears due to the temporary increase in blood pressure.

Chains of Fools

Chain restaurants, where the foods are assembled rather than cooked, are some of the biggest culprits in the crime of over-salting food.

For instance, the Denny’s chain’s “Moon Over My Hammy” breakfast sandwich with a side of hash browns comes out to 3,230 mg of sodium before you add any condiments like ketchup. So that’s about twice what you should be eating, or a thousand mg over your maximum recommended intake for the entire day, just at breakfast.

Eat a larger meal at Denny’s, say, a bowl of clam chowder, their Spicy Buffalo Chicken Melt sandwich, and a side of seasoned fries, and you’re eating over four and a half days worth of sodium in a single meal (which contains about 1,700 calories too).

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) performed a study in 2009 in which they looked at some national chains and attempted to put together reasonable meals at those restaurants. The amount of sodium in each is astounding:

  • Red Lobster Admirals’ Feast with Caesar Salad, Creamy Lobster Topped Mashed Potato, Cheddar Bay Biscuit, and a Lemonade: 7,106 mg
  • Chili’s Buffalo Chicken Fajitas (with tortillas and condiments) and a Dr Pepper: 6,916 mg
  • Chili’s Honey-Chipotle Ribs with Mashed Potatoes with Gravy, Seasonal Vegetables, and a Dr Pepper: 6,440 mg
  • Olive Garden Tour of Italy (lasagna) with a Breadstick, Garden Fresh Salad with House Dressing, and a Coca-Cola: 6,176 mg
  • Olive Garden Chicken Parmigiana with a Breadstick, Garden Fresh Salad with House Dressing, and Raspberry Le[m]onade: 5,735 mg

Saline Solution

Cooking your own food is the only way you’ll know for sure what’s in what you’re eating. Sometimes you just have to eat out, whether it be due to convenience, a work or social function, party, or vacation. In those cases, there are some things you can do to at least alleviate the problem of too much salt and fat in standard restaurant portions:

  • Eat Local – If you can’t prepare your own food, try to at least eat somewhere that prepares its own foods. Most chain restaurants do little but reheat and combine ingredients that are processed and packaged elsewhere, and have no control over what goes into your dish. Local restaurants may be able to prepare your food with less salt if you ask when you order.
  • On the Side – Ask for potentially salty ingredients on the side. Instead of pouring salad dressing on your salad, just dip the tines of your fork into the dressing before eating a bite. Sauces are another culprit and are usually the saltiest ingredient in a dish, especially when eating Asian cuisines. If you can get the sauce on the side at least you can limit your intake.
  • Simply Prepared – Skip the gloopy dishes where everything is mixed together with a ton of sugary, salty sauce that’s thickened with starch. Look for keywords like “roasted,” “grilled,” “steamed,” or “baked.” Avoid things that are “glazed,” “crusted,” or “fried.”
  • Break the Shaker Habit – Don’t add extra salt to your food with the salt shaker on the table. Or if you do, at least taste the portion you’re about to eat before you add salt to it. When you do add salt (say to vegetables that have been as yet unseasoned) limit the amount you shake on, or better yet, shake the salt into your palm and then sprinkle it onto your food when you can see how much you’re using (salt shakers in restaurants usually use fine-grained salt which pours very easily).

When shopping at the supermarket, beware health claims on labels. “Sodium-free” means that a serving contains less than 5mg of sodium per serving, which even though it’s a minor amount toward your 2,300 mg of sodium per day, still adds up. “Reduced sodium” means that it contains 25% less sodium than the standard item. So if something’s loaded with 2,000 mg of sodium, a 25% reduction to only 1,500 mg may not be doing you much good. “Lite,” “light,” or “low” sodium means that it contains 50% less than the standard, whatever that standard is.

The USDA recommends avoiding foods containing more than 200 mg per serving. Of course, that means being conscious of how many servings you eat. The nutritional facts label on a 20 oz bottle of Coca-Cola, which I’d consider single-serving, actually claims it contains 2.5 servings. Ditto most bags of microwave popcorn.

Your taste for salty things is acquired through years of eating too much salt, so if you cut back gradually you can help retrain your body to get by with much less salt. It’ll take time to reduce your sodium intake without craving salty snacks all the time.

I’ve Eaten Too Much Salt. What Now?

Drink plenty of water to try to wash out as much as possible. As your kidneys process the salt and water the extra water you take in will help to dilute the salt.

Exercising and sweating will also help remove salt from your system (have you ever tasted how salty sweat is?).

Otherwise, wait it out and in a few days of drinking copious amounts of water your body will re-align your salt/water balance (unless you have kidney disease or another medical condition that affects your kidney’s ability to regulate sugar and water balance).

There Was Talk of Salt and Fat

Yes, restaurants tend to add a lot of fat to your foods too, but except for adding a huge amount of extra calories (since fats are the most caloric food you can eat) they have little lasting ill-effects. By eating out less, reducing your sodium intake, and being smart about what you order when you do eat out, you’ll be able to live a normal life while losing weight.

It’s possible, but it’s not easy. Restaurants really work against you because salt & fat make things taste really good. I’ve found that substituting protein for fat helps keep me just as satisfied, although most proteins contain some fat too. Once you’ve weaned-off salt you’ll find a little goes a long way.

Don’t be afraid to ask for less salt & fat when eating out. You’re going to have to eat it, and you’re paying for it, so don’t be shy about protecting your own health. Of course, your mileage may vary, so take my advice with a grain of salt[1].


  1. Cue the sad trombone.  ↩

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I'm just some guy who lost a lot of weight and studied up on nutrition, diet, and exercise in order to improve my personal fitness. The contents of this site in no way contains medical advice. You should visit your doctor before making any dramatic changes to your diet or activity. While I make every attempt to be as accurate as possible regarding current knowledge and scientific studies (please feel free to let me know when I'm wrong about something), and may from time to time post updates to correct inaccuracies in previous entries, the information on this site is provided "as-is" for entertainment purposes only. Don't do something stupid and then sue me. I'm just trying to help. Thanks.