I suffer from high blood pressure. But I don’t want to give up my favorite fast food restaurants. Below are some healthy low-sodium options for those of us with low salt restrictions when it is late, our family is hungry, and the only option is drive thru burgers.
The Mayo Clinic recommends people at risk for heart attacks, high blood pressure, swelling, and strokes consume less than 1,500 mg of salt per day. That’s an average of 500 mg per meal. So just skip the fries and add a healthy salad, right? Wrong! McDonald’s small fries only contain 160 mg of salt, compared to their Southwest Salad with Crispy Chicken which totals 820 mg of salt, before adding salad dressing! A packet of salad dressing can range from 340 to 420 mg of salt depending on the type of dressing you choose. Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad contains a whopping 1,030 mg of salt. That’s as much salt as you should eat in two meals! Burger King’s side Caesar salad with dressing contains 710 mg of salt. Add grilled or crispy chicken and you jump over 1,000 mg of salt.
Most McDonald’s specialty burgers are also loaded with sodium, including the Big Mac, Double Cheeseburger, and Quarter Pounder with Cheese, containing 970, 1,050, and 1,100 mg of salt, respectively. Wendy’s Jr. Hamburger, the lowest sodium content on the menu, contains 600 mg of salt. It only climbs from there, with the Baconator topping out at 1,890 mg of salt. Burger King’s Whopper starts at 910 mg of salt, or you can save 120 mg by asking for no mayonnaise. The Angry Whopper loads up with 1,610 mg of salt.
Think chicken might be a healthier low sodium option? Think again! A McChicken from McDonald’s contains 800 mg of salt, followed closely by the Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich at 820 mg. Add bacon and crispy chicken and your sandwich shoots over 1,500 mg of salt! Wendy’s crispy chicken sandwich starts at 620 mg of salt, less than their Go Wraps. The Asiago Ranch Club with Homestyle Chicken weighs in at 1,640 mg of salt. Burger King’s Original Chicken Sandwich contains 1,140 mg of salt. Three of their Homestyle strips contain 1,130 mg of salt.
So what can you eat at a fast food restaurant? At all three restaurants a four piece chicken nuggets averages 355 mg of salt. At a small McDonald’s for 160 mg of salt to make it a meal. Just skip the additional salt packets which contain 270 mg of salt per packet. Or opt for a McDonald’s hamburger and stay under your limit with 480 mg of salt.
The half-size of Wendy’s Apple Pecan Chicken Salad contains a doable 490 mg of salt. Want a whole size? Try Wendy’s Asian Cashew Chicken Salad which contains 520 mg of salt (the half size only 260!). Wendy’s garden salad only contains 20 mg of salt. Pair that with a Light Honey French or Pomegranate Vinaigrette Dressing for only 95 or 150 mg of salt, respectively. Wendy’s also offers a sour cream and chive baked potato which only contains 50 mg of salt. Even adding butter (for 95 mg) and cheese (for 110 mg) keeps you within your range. Just don’t get tempted to add the chili topping, which contains 790 mg in one small cup.
You can also choose Burger King’s Whopper Jr. with cheese and mayonnaise for only 460 mg of salt. Or enjoy the Chicken Apple & Cranberry Garden Fresh Salad with Tendergrill Chicken & dressing for a total of 480 mg of salt.
To eat at a fast food burger joint for less than 500 mg of salt, it is going to take determination and creative planning. But with a little bit of education and self-control, you can still eat healthy and enjoy your favorite fast food restaurants.