The Saltiest Foods of 2011

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.

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 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. 

 
1. WORST PASTA 
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

DID YOU KNOW? Grocery cart handles are dirtier than bathrooms, and half of them carry E. coli, says a new University of Arizona study. Discover shocking health, nutrition and weight loss secrets—and how to eat, drink and still shrink, without ever dieting!—by following me on Twitter right here or by signing up for our FREE Eat This, Not That! newsletter.

2. WORST BREAKFAST
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)

Bonus Tip: The right breakfast will make you super-productive. So avoid the wrong ones, especially these shocking 20 Worst Breakfasts in America.

3. WORST "HEALTHY" ENTREE 
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)

DID YOU KNOW? Studies show that people underestimate how many calories are in restaurant meals—by nearly 100 percent! Think you know healthy foods when you see them? Then I'll bet you'll be shocked by these 25 'Healthy' Foods That Aren't.

4. SALTIEST APPETIZER
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)

DID YOU KNOW? You don't need to make big changes to your diet to lose 10, 20, or even 30 pounds. You just need to make the right small tweaks. Change how you look and feel—fast and forever—with the 25 Best Nutrition Secrets Ever!

5. SALTIEST CHINESE
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 Changs’ 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 Changs Steamed Buddha's Feast Lunch Bowl (brown rice) with Egg Drop Soup
800 mg sodium
480 calories
7 g fat (0 g saturated)

Click here to check out our complete list of the 30 Saltiest Foods in America ... and beware! Mr. Salty may be running lose at some of your favorite restaurants!

Follow Yahoo! Health on Facebook.

------------

TODAY'S MEN'S HEALTH NEWS: The Surprising Cure for Migraines ... The Top 10 Reasons Marriages Fail ... 9 Ways to Clean Up Your Diet

LOSE 15 POUNDS OF BELLY FAT FAST! Check out the brand new Men's Health Diet or the Women's Health Diet! You'll lose weight and get healthy faster than ever--thanks to a plan that draws on the easiest and most effective research ever published!

MEET YOUR 24/7 VIRTUAL PERSONAL TRAINER!

EAT RIGHT RULE: If your food can go bad, it's good for you. If it can't go bad, it's bad for you. FOLLOW DAVE ZINCZENKO RIGHT HERE ON TWITTER and get FREE health, nutrition and weight-loss secrets like this one every day! You'll lose weight and get healthy faster than ever!

Check out these cutting-edge guides to fast and easy weight loss, the brand-new Men’s Health Big Book of Exercises and Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises.

Get more nutrition, health, and fitness secrets from Men's Health: Subscribe today with this special offer and save 50% off the cover price.



Get the New Book! Eat This, Not That! 2011
   


Cook This, Not That! Supermarket Guide

LEAVE YOUR COMMENT

Follow Yahoo Health on and become a fan on

Follow @YahooHealth on
Related Health News