The dietary recommendation for sodium intake is 2400mg per day, and those who are identified as needing to eat a low-sodium diet (for reasons of pre-hypertension and hypertension, among other reasons) are often advised that a 1500mg per day limit is what they should stick to. Since the beginning of January, I’ve been making a serious effort to eat within those guidelines, which (most days) means eating far, far below 1500mg because I can never predict with certainty that a social situation where I need to eat salty foods won’t arise.
What’s disconcerting is that low fat and no fat foods, along with many supposedly healthy pre-packaged foods, seem to make up for a lack of calories and fats by dumping in additional sodium. People keep offering me foods saying, “They’re really low in fat,” not realizing that unlike calories and fat, where you can usually tell whether you’re about to eat something helpful or seriously unhelpful, YOU REALLY CAN’T PREDICT HOW MUCH SODIUM IS IN SOMETHING UNLESS YOU MAKE IT YOURSELF. So in a diet that I try to keep as basic and healthy as possible, eating out becomes not only an act of faith – are they being honest about not having put any salt on your foods when you’re sure your eggs taste pretty salty? – but also an act of, for want of a better term, finding a needle in the proverbial haystack.
Case in point:
I got caught uptown the other day before a show, and hadn’t eaten anything since lunchtime, so I was in a situation where I had to eat something in order to get through the play (actually, I wouldn’t have minded a few strong drinks to get through the play, Dog And Wolf, which was on at 59E59 Theatre). I popped into a Starbucks, where the sandwiches held an average of 700-1100 mg of sodium each, and realized that the only meal-like thing in the place that I could eat without worrying about its sodium content was a yogurt parfait (130mg sodium). Unfortunately, that didn’t fill me up and I wound up grabbing a cheap slice on my way down to the village, which almost definitely put me over the 1500mg mark for the day. Damn it. Why couldn’t Starbucks have offered some kind of sandwich or Panini alternative that wasn’t chock full of sodium? And should I have just bitten the bullet and grabbed that sandwich when I had the chance?