Low sodium fast food items

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Salt makes food taste better, which is why restaurant food is loaded with it. Finding low sodium fast food is a challenge, but there are menu options with reasonable amounts of salt at most fast food restaurants.

The FDA recommends that people 14 and over should consume a maximum of 2,300 mg of sodium each day, according to the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans. But many people are on low-sodium, heart-healthy diets due to chronic medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart, or kidney problems. That's why the American Heart Association recommends a daily limit of only 1,500 mg of sodium.

While a fried chicken sandwich obviously has a lot of sodium, there are sneaky ways sodium creeps into fast food. Always assume that dipping sauces, salad dressings, and sandwich spreads have a ton of sodium. Breads, buns, and baked goods are also non-obvious things to avoid when you're trying to reduce your sodium intake.

If you want to limit your sodium intake, here are the best 42 menu items at 10 fast food restaurants to help achieve that goal.

1. McDonald's: Fruit and Maple Oatmeal

Sodium: 150 mg (7% of your daily value)

Stay away from sandwiches at McDonald's if you're on a low-sodium diet. Even a tiny cheeseburger has 720 mg. If only fried food will do, stick with a small fry at 190 mg or a 4-piece McNugget with 330 mg. Just watch out for the dipping sauces — one pack of spicy buffalo sauce has a whopping 520 mg.

Other options:

  • Apple slices: 0 mg (0% DV)
  • Vanilla cone: 80 mg (3% DV)
  • Baked apple pie: 100 mg (4% DV)

2. Wendy's: Sour Cream and Chive Baked Potato

Sodium: 55 mg (2% DV)

Sure, the plain baked potato at Wendy's has 15 mg less sodium, but who doesn't want a little more flavor on their potato? Otherwise, you're mostly stuck with desserts here for low-sodium items. 

Other options: 

  • Small chocolate frosty: 180 mg (8% DV)
  • Apple bites: 0 mg (0% DV)
  • Chocolate chunk cookie: 210 mg (9% DV)

3. Burger King: Garden Side Salad Without Dressing

Sodium: 190 mg (8% DV)

Burger King still offers side salads, and they're low in sodium — as long as you skip the dressing. If you can't go without, a full packet of Ken's Light Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette has 210 mg of sodium. If you use half of it on your salad, that's only about 100 mg more sodium.

Other options:

  • Unsalted small fries: 220 mg (9% DV)
  • Soft serve cone: 150 mg (7% DV)
  • 3-piece French toast sticks with syrup: 245 mg (10% DV)

Taco Bell Chips NachoPhoto credit: Lacey Muszynski / Cheapism

4. Taco Bell: Chips and Nacho Cheese Sauce

Sodium: 280 mg (12% DV)

Who would have thought that a side of tortilla chips and nacho cheese sauce is one of the lowest sodium options at Taco Bell? If you must have a taco, get it fresco-style. That'll swap the sodium-laden cheese for tomatoes in a healthful switch.

Other options:

  • Crunchy taco (regular): 300 mg (13% DV)
  • Black beans: 140 mg (6% DV)
  • Cinnamon twists: 115 mg (5% DV)
  • 2-pack Cinnabon delights: 70 mg (3% DV)

5. Subway: 6-inch Veggie Delite

Sodium: 370 mg (16% DV)

Deli meats are packed with sodium, so your best option at Subway is to forgo them altogether in favor of a Veggie Delite. If you want to add cheese, opt for Swiss, which only adds 30 mg of sodium per serving. For sauces and toppings, steer clear of buffalo and opt for oil and vinegar instead.

Other options:

  • Grilled chicken salad (no dressing): 280 mg (12% DV)
  • Chocolate chip cookie: 120 mg (5% DV)

6. Starbucks: Berry Trio Parfait

Sodium: 125 mg (5% DV)

Most of the food at Starbucks has a lot of sodium, even the bakery items. That's why the Berry Trio Parfait is your best bet. If you prefer a hot breakfast, try the oatmeal with 125 mg of sodium without toppings.

Other options:

  • Kale and mushroom egg bites: 340 mg (15% DV)
  • Double chocolate brownie: 220 mg (10% DV)
  • Birthday cake pop: 95 mg (4% DV)

Panera steel cut oatmeal strawberries and pecansPhoto credit: Panera

7. Panera: Steel Cut Oatmeal with Strawberries and Pecans

Sodium: 150 mg (7% DV)

Forget the soup-filled bread bowls at Panera because even the sourdough bowl has over 1100 mg of sodium alone. You'll be much better off with a healthy breakfast item, like the strawberry, pecan, and cinnamon sugar-topped oatmeal.

Other options:

  • Brownie: 95 mg (4% DV)
  • Half Caesar salad: 320 mg (14% DV)
  • Green passion smoothie: 50 mg (2% DV)
  • Greek yogurt with mixed berries: 80 mg (3% DV)

8. Chipotle: Salad with Fajita Vegetables, Black Beans, and Sour Cream

Sodium: 390 mg (17% DV)

You can cobble together a less-sodium meal at Chipotle if you pick and choose your ingredients. Lettuce has none, but if you need rice, the brown rice has significantly less sodium than the white. Tortillas, salsas, and guacamole are out, unfortuantely.

Other options:

  • Cilantro lime brown rice: 190 mg (8% DV)
  • Chicken: 310 mg (13% DV)
  • Cheese: 190 mg (8% DV)

9. Chick-fil-A: Greek Yogurt Parfait

Sodium: 75 mg (3% DV)

Those delectable chicken sandwiches are out of the question for low-sodium dieters at Chick-fil-A. The breakfast parfait is the best option. If you have to get chicken, grab the 5-piece grilled nuggets with the honey mustard sauce.

Other options:

  • Fruit cup: 0 mg (0% DV)
  • 5-piece grilled nuggets: 270 mg (12% DV)
  • Small waffle fries: 190 mg (8% DV)
  • Kale crunch side: 250 mg (11% DV)

10. Sonic: Small Fries

Sodium: 260 mg (11% DV)

Many of the Sonic Happy Hour slushes, drinks, and limeades have low sodium content. The food, however, is high in sodium for the most part. Your best bet is a small fry if you want a snack with your slush.

Other options:

  • Strawberry sundae: 310 mg ( 13% DV)
  • Large cherry limeade: 70 mg (3 % DV)
  • Applesauce: 0 mg (0% DV)

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