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Feb 24, 2005 10:08 AM

Iodized salt -- used by restaurants?

  • r

I am currently on a very strict low iodine diet for health reasons. This is not the first time I've been on the diet and in the past I've resolutely avoided all prepared foods and restaurant meals because I've never been able to verify whether a vendor or restaurant used iodized salt. As a chowhound, though, this is painful and I'm starting to wonder if I can loosen up on my restrictions.

Does anyone know how commonly iodized salt is used in restaurants? I know a lot of restaurants use sea salt, which I don't believe contains iodine, but, again, how common is this? I've been to restaurants while on the low iodine diet and asked whether the chef used low iodine salt and have received many confused looks (one helpful waiter actually tried to fish out an empty salt bag from the trash but couldn't find it).

I would greatly appreciate any comments, especially from those in the food and restaurant industry. This is a real quality of life issue for me.

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  1. In the kitchen, they usually use kosher salt, which is not iodized. That's the reason they use it, because iodine gives off a nasty taste. On the table, the salt shakers most likely have iodized, sometimes the purchaser has a choice but most seem to go with iodized since that's what people are used to. You definitely can taste the iodine when it's there.

    4 Replies
    1. re: coll

      Perhaps true in fine dining, but I have to doubt whether its true for mom & pop places and chains, where convenience and cost play more of a factor, I would imagine. And a lot of chain food is factory-prepped ahead elsewhere (Olive Garden, e.g., anyone?), so I would never assume kosher salt was being used with that.

      1. re: Karl S.

        Actually kosher salt is about the same price as salt "rounds" (like in the grocery store) The only way salt is cheaper is when you buy 25# bags, as many delis do, but I don't believe that is iodized. When I worked out in the field, we always used kosher, and we're talking "mom and pop" and a large chain too, owned by General Mills.

        1. re: Karl S.

          Just FYI, kosher salt is neither much more expensive or harder to find than iodized salt, at least at most general chain grocery stores in So. California. I think an average price of Kosher salt is about $1.50 pound. However, I have most often seen it ground course enough to not allow it's use in a regular salt shaker. It think it's sea salt that is much more cost inhibitive.

        2. re: coll

          I could never tell the difference in taste between iodized and noniodized salt. And I agree that there might be a distiction between what the kitchen uses and what might be placed in the salt shaker. I wonder, however, whether most people at home use iodized or noniodized salt and so become used to the taste of one over the other. I have to admit that until I first had to start going on this diet, I never gave the issue a bit of thought. Salt was salt and my complaints centered only on whether food was over or undersalted.

        3. In my restaurant, we use kosher salt and sea salt in the kitchen, and regular old salt on the tables. This is a middle of the road, middle priced place FYI. All dishes and sauces are made "from scratch".

          If asked, the server could find out from the chef which dishes would contain any salt, and we could eliminate it from the dishes if requested - e.g. replace the chicken stock.

          Please be careful in chain places.

          1 Reply
          1. re: SDM

            Thanks for your comments. I will be going out to a restaurant for a special occaision dinner next week-end and plan on contacting the kitchen before our meal to see what type of salt they use.

          2. As another practitioner of the LID, you might try speaking to the restaurant chef in advance. I've heard that mexican restaurants can put together some dishes without being put out too much. Or, you can try asking for a grilled steak, no salt or sauce and sprinkle your own. You can also ask for grilled veggies (no salt or sauce) or a salad with oil and vinegar (of course, no cheese).

            Regardless of the above, I still think eating out is too risky, especially since I only need to be on the diet for 2 weeks.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Betty

              Another LID practitioner! I almost never go out while on the diet, because, as you say, you can't control what the chef puts in the food and there are so many hidden additives to food.

              We are going out next week-end and I'm sure I'll do the "steak, no sauce, grilled veggies or potato on the side" routine.

              One problem I've run into is that at times the diet does stretch longer than two weeks. Test results have been delayed or rooms weren't available in the hospital, dragging out the process. This year, I might have to go on the diet twice, depending on the results of upcoming blood tests and whole body scan. So, I've found myself chafing under the diet much more than in the past.

              Another complaint: my local grocery store no longer carries some of my tried and true LID foods. I spent twenty minutes last week looking for no salt peanut butter, usually made by Jif. Not there. I had to go to Fresh Fields/Whole Foods and search until I found another no salt peanut butter. The apple jelly, which is also recommended on the diet, is also missing from my grocery store. They are also lacking no salt chips and pretzels.

              1. re: Rebecca

                For LID safe stuff, it seems that Whole Foods and Trader Joe's is a staple.

                I've given up on getting good no-salt chips at the store, that Kettle Brand stuff is awful. Last year, I started mail ordering them - it's a good thing I love potato chips because you have to order by the case. The brand I like best is Cape Cod. Although their website says you have to buy a case of no-salt, they'll mix and match if you call in the order. Unfortunately, it's probably a little late to order it and have it arrive in time if you're already on the diet.

                I have no financial interest in Cape Cod, I just like their chips.