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Amount of salt in restaurant food?

fara Jun 13, 2011 06:39 PM

It is almost inevitable that after eating out, even in a nice restaurant, that I will feel very thirsty and dehydrated afterwards. Why and how do they get so much salt into the food?

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  1. j
    jeanmarieok Jun 13, 2011 08:11 PM

    I think it's a combination of things - the use of prepared products like sauces and seasoning that have a lot of salt in them already, and a heavy hand with the salt shaker. Salt makes things taste better, so restaurants use a lot of it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jeanmarieok
      bobbert Dec 13, 2011 10:03 AM

      That really is the bottom line. Salt makes things taste better as evidenced by how much is in prepared foods. Restaurants also recognize this and season for taste, not for health. The three things restaurants use to make their food taste really good are fat, salt and butter. A lot of that has to do with the evolution of us humans. For thousands of years we didn't get enough of those things in our bodies so we evolved to crave them. Even though we (Americans anyway) can now get as much as we want the craving is still there so look at what we've become.

    2. tommy Jun 14, 2011 05:51 AM

      I haven't noticed this, and I've eaten at all types of restaurants around the world.

      1. f
        ferret Jun 14, 2011 06:22 AM

        Not at all my experience.

        1. inaplasticcup Jun 14, 2011 06:34 AM

          Maybe you're especially sensitive to sodium.

          Also, if you're eating at chains, even nicer ones, many of their sauces are premade and contain a good amount of sodium. MSG will also cause many people to be thirsty, and it's a common component of sauces and seasonings.

          6 Replies
          1. re: inaplasticcup
            fara Jun 14, 2011 08:05 AM

            I notice this particularly in chains, but also in independent establishments. I drink a lot of water but when I wake up at night very thirsty, I 'll try and remember if I ate out that day and it is always because of a restaurant meal. Interesting other people aren't bothered by it.

            1. re: fara
              ferret Jun 14, 2011 08:15 AM

              There is no uniformity in how people are affected by salt. Some people are hypersensitive, some cannot tolerate it medically and others are simply unaffected by it. There are lots of posts on here reflecting certain people's intolerance of saltiness in foods. You'd have to really salt something heavily for me to care and as far as my wife is concerned, there is no such thing as "oversalting."

              1. re: fara
                scubadoo97 Jun 14, 2011 01:17 PM

                Even some independent establishments may often use prepared products. When you see the big Sysco truck outside it gives you a hint. But beyond that it has been mentioned that some people are more sensitive to sodium. I know my wife use to complain about swelling in her fingers after eating at my moms but didn't complain when eating out at Chili's and I know Chili's uses way more salt in their food. So who knows

                1. re: scubadoo97
                  ferret Jun 14, 2011 01:31 PM

                  Given that Sysco distributes just about every type of product a restaurant would use (paper goods, dry goods, produce, meats, dairy - and prepared products) it's difficult to draw any conclusions about what a particular establishment would be receiving just by the presence of a Sysco truck.

                  1. re: ferret
                    tommy Jun 14, 2011 01:37 PM

                    Agreed. I've read this time and time again, and it's perplexing.

                    1. re: ferret
                      scubadoo97 Jun 14, 2011 03:06 PM

                      Yes I know and your response is duly noted.

              2. MandalayVA Jun 14, 2011 08:11 AM

                I generally drink a lot of water while eating out and I find that circumvents however much salt/MSG is added to the food.

                1. b
                  beevod Jun 14, 2011 09:09 AM

                  I've never noticed this. What a "nice" restaurant?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: beevod
                    fara Jun 14, 2011 09:33 AM

                    well for us that would be a meal about $50/person (and which is worth that price). we rarely eat in places like this but I experience the same phenomenon. also the case with most ethnic mid-or low priced restaurants and certainly any "american" style restaurant. and i feel like i salt everything pretty well at home.

                    1. re: fara
                      inaplasticcup Jun 14, 2011 09:42 AM

                      It's really sounding like you have an above average sensitivity to sodium. Mandalay mentioned drinking lots of water with your meal - maybe that'll help?

                  2. c
                    Cachetes Jun 14, 2011 10:39 AM

                    I have had this occur, but only in recent years and only after eating at pizza places or lower end chinese food. I have noticed that my sensitivity to salt has grown in direct correlation with my age, so perhaps you are someone who is very sensitive to sodium in food (someone who I may also be sadly becoming!).

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Cachetes
                      Delucacheesemonger Jun 14, 2011 10:45 AM

                      My sensitivity has increased with age as well. Find in many high end restaurants as well as casual. Two here in Philadelphia, that while everyone else loves, l stopped going due to the salt content; Amada and Zahav

                    2. alanbarnes Jun 14, 2011 01:40 PM

                      Restaurants use a LOT of salt in their food; it makes things taste better. When everything's balanced it doesn't taste salty, so unless you're especially sensitive you don't notice it. But it's there. In spades.

                      I think it was Tony Bourdain who commented that people at home would be shocked by the amount of salt professional cooks add to things. This is true whether you're eating at Applebee's or Ad Hoc.

                      1. l
                        Lady Pistola Jun 15, 2011 10:44 PM

                        OMG I have this problem too! Although, until now, I thought it was 'their' problem, and not mine! What's interesting is that we tried a new hole in the wall pizza joint that was highly recommended to us, and we tried a few things while there, and I felt like there was absolutely NO salt whatsoever in anything they made! Everything was terribly bland! I was shocked, as most places are TOO salty for me! So I agree with SOME salt, but definitely don't coat it in the stuff! I too have to drink tons of water with and after my meal or I'm up at night parched.

                        1. tracylee Jun 15, 2011 10:52 PM

                          I hadn't really noticed it until this last weekend, where we spent a day on the road, a day at my grandmother's 90th birthday, and another day on the road back home. The only meal not eaten at a restaurant was at the birthday party, and only one of the restaurant meals was at a chain - the last breakfast at Shari's. I only drink water with meals, except for coffee with breakfast.

                          By the time I got back to my house, I was up 7 lbs in the 3 days, and I could feel that my hands were swollen and my ankles looked swollen. Only one meal - a hamburger at lunch on the way up, tasted really salty, but the cumulative effect of eating out for 3 days really added up.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: tracylee
                            tommy Jun 16, 2011 05:27 AM

                            I'm confused. Do you attribute The weight gain to salt? Or to eating out and other variables lIke sitting in a car for long hours.

                            1. re: tommy
                              tracylee Jun 16, 2011 05:45 PM

                              It was probably a combination of both. I'm not very active due to health issues, so it wasn't that I was getting less exercise. However, knowing that pit stops were infrequent, I wasn't drinking water like I'm used to. I also ate things that I normally wouldn't at home, like bacon on a cheeseburger, and sausages for breakfast. But things that I would make at home definitely had more sodium in the restaurant versions than my home version.

                              1. re: tracylee
                                tommy Jun 16, 2011 05:56 PM

                                7 lbs is almost a full gallon if water. The math just doesn't make sense.

                                1. re: tommy
                                  tracylee Jun 16, 2011 06:06 PM

                                  Honestly, I can drink that much water in a day, and I know it'll help "rinse" sodium out of the body. Usually I'm close enough to a bathroom that it doesn't matter. My Mom will swell up due to the sodium in a serving of soda, so I'm sure the extra sodium in the food and lack of water between meals led to retaining water. My prescription for diuretics had also been cut way back the week before.

                          2. c
                            coyoteblonde Dec 13, 2011 09:37 AM

                            It amazes me how so many of us don't realize that we have been conditioned to eat way too much sodium! The food may not taste salty to you because you are so used to eating way too salty of food. We can teach ourselves to like food with a whole lot less salt. Plus... you can always put more salt on at the table. This is where you get the most bang for your buck taste-wise anyway. Cook at home more and use less salt and you will become more "sensitive" to it also.

                            1. monkeyrotica Dec 13, 2011 10:12 AM

                              I've given up on a lot of chain restaurants because of the sodium. I was given a pasta dish at Macaroni Grill that was inedibly salty, and I never send food back. Carryouts seem to be the biggest culprit. There was a Salvadorean place near me where the burritos were really salty, and they threw in packets of salt in the carryout bag. Some of that seems to be demand driven as well. Customers always seem to ask for extra packets of salt. The standard accompanyment to frenchfries at the Chinese carryouts in DC are "saltpeppaketchup." I've seen them drown them in that stuff.

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