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Puff the Swollen Ankles

Guest Post by Joanne Lichten (Dr. Jo)

Do you ever come back from your travels with a few extra pounds? While some of the extra weight might be due to excess calories and insufficient movement, chances are more than half is due to fluid retention. Curbing your sodium intake can help, but it’s often difficult to do so during travel since most meals contain more sodium than one should be taking in for the entire day.

Let’s start with the facts – we consume way more than we need. The estimated average intake for all Americans ages two years and older is about 3400mg a day. Yet, the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests that we consume no more than 2300mg in order to reduce our risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Americans older than 51, African Americans, and those with diabetes, high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease should drop their sodium intake to under 1500mg. The World Health Organization recommendation is similar – no more than five grams of salt (or under 2000mg sodium).

How much sodium is the recommended 2300mg? It’s about as much sodium as is in a level teaspoon of table salt. Don’t think you could possibly eat that much? Think again. Most of the sodium we consume doesn’t come from our use of the salt shaker. At least 75% is found in processed and prepared food. And, most restaurants add more sodium to their dishes than you would add at home.

Consider these Sodium Shockers:

  • Olive Garden Garden Fresh salad – just one serving = 1930mg
  • Arby’s medium Homestyle Fries = 1360mg
  • Wendy’s Sweet & Spicy Asian Boneless Wings = 2490mg
  • Quizno’s Baja Chicken Signature Sub, regular size = 2090mg
  • Steak ‘N Shake Chili Deluxe, bowl = 2560mg
  • KFC – 1 biscuit = 530mg
  • Subway 6″ Turkey Sub w/American cheese and light mayo = 1220mg
  • Applebee’s Sizzling Skillet Fajitas (chicken, steak, or shrimp) = 6040-6800mg
  • Burger King BK Veggie Burger = 1030mg
  • Chili’s Brownie Sundae = 930mg
  • Chipotle fully loaded Burrito with Carnitas = 2410mg
  • McDonald’s Premium Southwest Salad w/grilled chicken and 1 pkg Newman’s Own Low Fat salad dressing = 1690mg
  • Red Lobster Grilled Lobster, Shrimp & Scallops = 3220mg
  • Panera’s bowl Low-Fat Vegetarian Black Bean soup = 1590mg
  • Taco Bell Grilled Chicken Stuft Burrito = 1980mg

Here are some tips on how to reduce your sodium intake during your travels:

  1. Don’t trust your taste buds. Foods that have the salt mixed in don’t taste nearly as salty as when salt is sprinkled on top.
  2. Look up the nutritional information. Most large chain restaurants now offer information at their websites. Keep in mind that sodium is listed “per serving” and you just might be eating more than one serving!
  3. Stop shaking. Break the automatic habit of salting your food before you taste it – or better yet, stop salting the food completely. Just about every meal in every restaurant has more sodium than you need for the entire day.
  4. Ask for your food to be prepared without salt. Since much of restaurant food is delivered to the restaurant pre-prepared, you may not be able to cut the salt as much as you could at home, but it’s a start.
  5. Carry a low sodium blend with you. Look in the spice aisle of your grocery store. Dash and McCormick offers good tasting low-sodium blends. Many are garlic and/or pepper based.
  6. Eat more simply. Butters, sauces, dressings, and dips often are very high in both calories – and sodium! Just two level tablespoons of ketchup contains over 340mg sodium. And, avoid the breading added to proteins – plain grilled chicken is lower in sodium than chicken nuggets.
  7. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. As soon as you get to your destination, hit a grocery store to stock up on fresh apples, bananas, mini carrots and other low sodium (and low calorie) options.
  8. Eat less. Since sodium is often a variable of calories, the less you eat, the less sodium you’ll probably take in. Maybe now’s the time to lose those extra few pounds.

Joanne Lichten, PhD, RD (a.k.a. Dr. Jo) is a PhD nutritionist and professional speaker. She’s the author of several books including “How to Stay Healthy & Fit on the Road” and the upcoming “Eat Out Healthy.” For more information, go to www.DrJo.com.

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