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Salt in restaurant food

I’ve noticed a lot of people mention that restaurant food is “too salty”. On one thread in particular about Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s new restaurant The Inn at Pound Ridgehttp://chowhound.chow.com/topics/961043
several people complained of salty food. I think more and more people are choosing not to add salt to their food for health concerns, especially young people. That creates a problem for chefs. How much salt should I use when preparing food? Salt needs to be added in stages to facilitate flavoring. If you could achieve the same results by leaving it to the customers to salt their food at the table it wouldn’t be a problem. If you don’t use salt on your food most restaurant food will taste salty. What’s a chef to do? Jean-George is a world renowned chef. Although, he may not be cooking much there he is supervising. Many top restaurants do not leave salt shakers on the tables, you are supposed to accept that the chef has a more refined palate than you & he knows best, sort of an educational experience. I never bought that idea. I have a friend with high blood pressure that doesn’t even add salt to pasta cooking water. Naturally, everything tastes salty to him. I once worked for an owner who had the opposite problem, she chained smoked and drank black coffee constantly and couldn’t taste anything unless it was jacked up with salt. I see this as a problem that will only get worse. If you don’t use salt and go to a restaurant are you upset if the food tastes salty to you? Do you think you have a reasonable expectation to be served less salty food?

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  1. I use a modest amount of salt in my cooking. On a recent trip to Boston and NYC, involving numerous restaurant meals (including one at Jean-Georges), I encountered only one meal that I considered seriously over-salted (NOT J-G).

    1. My theory is that a diner can always add more salt, but cannot remove it if there is too much. If a dish is too salty (I use very little salt), for me the dish is ruined and I have wasted my money. I have a reasonable expectation of having the taste of the food shine rather than the taste of the salt overwhelm.

      3 Replies
      1. re: PattiCakes

        Do you frequently find restaurant food salty? If so, what do you do? Send it back?

        1. re: zackly

          I usually find it to be saltier than I would like, but realizing that I am hypersensitive, I don't send back. We do have a place in our office building that has soups at lunch. I have tried them twice, and have found them inedible both times due to heavy salt. Since I am a regular, I may find an opportunity when it's not busy to mention it. I've also found that some ethnic groups seem to prefer saltier food. My son in law is of Mexican heritage, and salts his food like crazy, as does the whole Mexican side of his family. Fortunately for me, however, they seem to do it at the table and not so much in the preparation.

          1. re: PattiCakes

            I think this is going to be a growing issue in food service as more and more people look to decrease their intake of salt. As a (retired) chef however, it's a problem because when I was cooking professionally I added enough salt until I reached that aha moment when I thought the dish was perfect. If I was cooking now I'd have to consciously cut back on the salt and serve food where the flavor wasn't optimized to my taste.

      2. I under-salt - I always watch people reaching for the salt LOL - I really never add salt beyond what is called for in a recipe and since I usually cook without recipe I usually cook without added salt. I also almost never add salt to my own plate at the table.

        I don't generally find restaurant food to be too salty

        OTOH prepared/packaged foods almost always taste way too salty for me.

        2 Replies
        1. re: JTPhilly

          <I also almost never add salt to my own plate at the table.>

          Same here. I rarely ever reach for the salt shaker. Prepared and packaged foods are almost always too salty for me as well.

          1. re: JTPhilly

            Same here re: never adding salt to restaurant food. I also know that I under salt when I cook, so I tend to offer up the salt shaker to guests so they don't worry about offending me by asking. And while I don't often consciously think that restaurant food is too salty while I'm eating it, the parched mouth that I wake up with in the middle of the night tells me that a restaurant meal was indeed a lot saltier than I'm used to.

          2. Something else to take into consideration is salt being used not only as flavoring but for other reasons - like salting vegetables to remove moisture, brining meat for tenderness, etc.

            Personally I have a wicked salt-tooth and can't usually get enough salt, but the first (and last) time I ate at a Jeff Ruby steakhouse, every dish there was a salt bomb. If I was unused to salt, it would have been inedible to me.

            1 Reply
            1. re: NonnieMuss

              I'm almost 64 and my taste buds are going south. I find myself using more salt to enjoy my food. Like you, I've always had a wicked salt-tooth anyway so I have to be careful when I'm' cooking for others and under salt everything.

            2. I use almost no added salt in my own cooking, which is not to say that the results are very low sodium. Ingredients like soy sauce, celery, and cheese preclude that. I do not buy the claim that food needs to be salted early in the cooking process. Breadmaking? Yes. A steak or burger? No. Since these are not very thick pieces of meat, once you chew a bite that has had a sprinkle of salt at the table, you'll perceive the entire mouthful as salted. In contrast, some foods that are cooked using salty ingredients, or with salt added early in cooking, don't taste as salty as they are. A friend who took Indian cooking classes was surprised at how much salt is involved, because the complex seasoning does not come off as salty. I wasn't, since I have cankles within hours of having an Indian meal.

              If books like Kitchen Confidential are to be believed, most cooks smoke, and that decreases their sense of taste enough that they tend to oversalt while cooking. I do believe restaurants should undersalt their food, for the sake of their patrons' health. They should, however, have salt shakers on the table for those who want more. Of all restaurant items, deep-fried foods are a bugaboo of mine. There's no good reason for default policy to be to salt the whole batch as soon as it's dumped out of the fryalator basket. It should be going straight to the customer, who can add salt if s/he wishes. At the risk of sounding hypocritical to refer to health and fried foods in the same paragraph, I am a person who never fries at home and limits fried food to a couple of restaurant meals a year.

              2 Replies
              1. re: greygarious

                The salt sticks best to the fried food when done immediately - otherwise it falls off and isn't easy to get salted!

                1. re: greygarious

                  Kitchen Confidential was written in the last century ;-) like the rest of the population it's not a given that chefs smoke or worse anymore. It's much more of a serious career now.

                  Had to get that off my chest.

                2. I think that people should be able to eat their food with the amount of salt in it that they like. The problem is, of course, that you can always add salt, but you can't take it away.

                  This, I fear, will condemn patrons of restaurants to undersalted, bland dishes, just to satisfy the (insatiable) demands of the "Pleasure Police" (thank you, Cigar Dave), who want us not to drink alcohol, not eat high fat foods, not eat sugar, not eat gluten, and not eat artificial anything.

                  The problem is that, as any chef will tell you, the time to add the salt is as you go in the cooking process. If you wait until the food is at the table, it won't tastde as good, no matter how much salt you put on the food from a salt shaker.

                  The solution? There isn't one. There will always be people in this world who don't want you to enjoy yourself and--in fact--consider enjoying yourself a sin. (I'm pretty sure these people created the phrase "a sinfully delicious dessert.)

                  1. I've had heart drama for the past 25 years.
                    When I travel for work, I refer to most restaurants as "as-salting" me.
                    I'll put on 5-8 pounds of water weight on a typical trip... I've given up on asking the server if the kitchen could take it easy on the salt... doesn't seem to make any difference.

                    1. <That creates a problem for chefs>

                      Well, they have to adjust. That's all. It is not that difficult to learn to use less salt. Often the population changes its preference over time. This is not the first time, nor it will be the last time.

                      <Salt needs to be added in stages to facilitate flavoring.>

                      Yes, but it does not mean oversalting..

                      <I see this as a problem that will only get worse.>

                      I don't. It is a shift. That's all.

                      1. I think that when eating out customers who are especially sensitive to salt need to say as much when ordering their meal. No salt when cooking equals less flavor. There is a very wide middle ground, but that's also personal and everyone will not be pleased all of the time.

                        Restaurant food is very rarely too salty for me.

                        But i lovelovelovelovelove salt. Like eat a jar of pickles and chase it with pretzels. Love. Salt. Which is a good thing since i have lower than normal blood pressure.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Ttrockwood

                          It's the wide middle ground that tends to be a problem. The exact same dish can taste bland to one person, and too salty to another.

                          The middle ground - the restaurant salts the food moderately, and appropriately as to cooking methods. People who are extra sensitive to salt state this when they order, and find out if the dish can be made low sodium. People who are salt fiends add a bit at the ned.

                        2. "Salt needs to be added in stages to facilitate flavoring."

                          I've never heard this before, and it goes against my personal experience. It seems to me that salt can be added later, at any time.

                          What makes you believe it must be added in layers?

                          15 Replies
                          1. re: Steve

                            the short answer is that salt added early has more time to internalize into the food so the net effect is that it tastes less salty by distriibuting the salt more evenlyy throughout the food also it is used to draw moisture out and concentrate flavor
                            as in dry & wet brining

                            1. re: Steve

                              The fact that salt needs to be added during the cooking process and never just at the end was literally the first thing I was taught in culinary school.

                              1. re: C. Hamster

                                What culinary school was that and what reason did they use to justify such a silly notion?

                                Perhaps they were ignorant to the fact that personal tastes and peoples individual tastebuds can vary significantly.

                                I'm not against the use of salt...but in those rare instances where a restaurant dish is too excessively salted, it _should_ be sent back.

                                1. re: The Professor

                                  "such a silly notion" and "in those rare instances" doesn't jive.

                                  "personal tastes and peoples individual tastebuds" yeah, most, if not nearly all restaurant meals I have are not seasoned with salt, at all, let alone with any other seasonings or herbs or spices, because of the "personal tastes and peoples individual tastebuds"

                                  what am I to do? dump an entire salt shaker over my food since it ain't IN my food?

                                  If you have a dietary restriction, speak up.

                                2. re: C. Hamster

                                  Absolutely agree C. Hamster. Salt as you go is the mantra of good cooking. As for those that will disagree, so be it. I am not here to debate the subject, but to simply add my opinion. And please note that I did not say "over salt" as you go. Salting as ingredients are added and absorb seasoning is key to building layers of complex flavor. Salt also facilitates certain necessary chemical reactions as the dish is prepared. Salting at the end not the same. An accomplished cook knows how to salt in stages and have the dish come out with a balanced flavor and not tasting over salted.

                                3. re: Steve

                                  Mostly, I agree with you since I've used little salt for decades now. I'm not sure whether or not the necessity of adding salt early in the cooking process holds water (intended) in all instances. Just because it's an accepted idea doesn't mean it's any more correct than the now-debunked notion that searing meat keeps the juices in. But I watched the finale of The Taste last night, solely because Jacques Pepin was mentoring the finalists. In making a savory mousse, he mentioned that the salt had to go into the processor with the proteins because it enables them to tighten up and cohere. Given his credentials, he's unlikely to be mistaken in this assertion.

                                  I've tried making bread without salt and it was awful. Salted butter would not have helped. So I learned and now DO use a little salt in my dough. Also in the soaking water for dried beans, again very little, and none in the actual cooking water. It clearly improves their flavor.

                                  1. re: greygarious

                                    Also, when making a custard, whether sweet or savory, a little salt added early helps the proteins to relax creating a more tender final product. You have to salt the egg mixture and let it sit.

                                    1. re: jpc8015

                                      Obviously breads and custards can't be salted after cooking. But a stew or stir-fry or many other dishes can be salted at the end.

                                      1. re: Steve

                                        I would find Chinese stir fry to be a hard dish to reduce salt in, because so many of the seasonings are intrinsically salty. Soy sauce, soy paste, XO sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine (the cooking version is often salted), fermented bean paste, chicken stock (or powder), MSG.

                                        I was also taught that for some dishes, like a simple cabbage stir fry, you add the salt to the oil to help prevent splattering. Plus, the meat is often marinated in a bit of baking soda for tenderness. If table salt is added (and it often isn't) it's added at the same time as the other saucy ingredients (stock, soy, etc), so it blends.

                                        If salt is added to the dish,

                                      2. re: greygarious

                                        Baking is certainly different. You can't adjust later.

                                        However, I always convert baking recipes that call for unsalted butter and adding salt. I simply use salted butter, and they come out fine.

                                        1. re: greygarious

                                          I heard that too.. I think he said it was a coagulant?

                                          I watched the first and last episode. Funny because I like all the judges. Just lacking on anything interesting.

                                          She was very smart to keep asking him is opinion!

                                        2. re: Steve

                                          Last night I happened to catch an episode of Lidia Bastianich's newest series from January. Lidia was explaining the importance of dividing the salt in a recipe and adding in the salt as ingredients are added to the pot. She explained that if the recipe called for a teaspoon of salt, then measure the teaspoon into a small dish, and add a pinch or so at different stages of the cooking for balanced seasoning

                                          1. re: bagelman01

                                            I'd put that in the questionable category - true if you buy the rule that delaying salting until the dish is on the table is inadequate - which I do not. When another balderdash rule - pasta must be cooked in a large volume of water - was being debunked by Harold McGee, Bastianich maintained that the rule is valid. What little credibility she had for me flew out the window at that point. It's always satisfying when someone you dislike to begin with gives you a clear reason to justify your loathing, isn't it? ;-)

                                          2. re: Steve

                                            I notice a difference. Seasoning including salt needs to be added to as the dish evolves.

                                            I can't recreate the flavor profile if I added it at the end.

                                          3. "Do you think you have a reasonable expectation to be served less salty food?"


                                            1. The soup is almost always too salty.

                                              1. I think as a chef your first job is to make sure your food Tastes Great.

                                                Season as you feel you need to season; although I would consider "sampling" with some of your sous chefs if you have any doubts.

                                                I think that the onus of sodium consumption is on the diner. If I need/desire a special diet I eat at home.


                                                7 Replies
                                                1. re: pedalfaster

                                                  I suppose those of us who don't like salty food should not be so accepting and uncomplaining. We need to tell the chef the food is "Too Salty". I am sure that if restaurants knew for a fact that they are losing potential business because of heavyhanded salting, they'd change their practices pretty fast. On every TV cooking show, sooner or later the cook, after tasting the completed food, says, "needs salt", and adds some. Clearly, THAT salt did not need to be added earlier in cooking. The chef should NOT be the one adding that final salting. If s/he left this step to the diner, I'd eat out more often and I am sure I am not the only one. We need some social media consumer campaign to stay the chef's hand - I'm too much of a Luddite to organize one but I'd sure sign the petition!

                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                    "On every TV cooking show, sooner or later the cook, after tasting the completed food, says, "needs salt", and adds some. Clearly, THAT salt" SHOULD have been added during the cooking!

                                                    I hate, no, I really HATE adding salt at the table. Ruins the food. But if there is no salt IN the food, then I guess I will have to suffer another meal with salt ON the food. BIG, no, HUGE difference. And one that makes me hate restaurants that serve unseasoned food. And salt isn't the only seasoning.

                                                    1. re: Gastronomos

                                                      There are other flavors that can be added to food, of course, but I think that when professional cooks refer to "seasoning," they are talking about salt, specifically.

                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                        it has come to just that. yes. just salt. a shame. and so rarely used properly....

                                                      2. re: Gastronomos

                                                        You seriously think it makes a difference whether Maurice
                                                        adds salt to the underseasoned mornay sauce just before he naps Moe's filet with it, or Moe's the one sprinkling it on at the table 2 minutes later? That makes no sense to me.

                                                      3. re: greygarious

                                                        Absolutely not.

                                                        You are paying for your meal and if you have any sort of dietary or medical condition most are very happy to comply IME.

                                                        1. re: pedalfaster

                                                          yes. as long as you speak up beforehand. tell them you want "no salt" or "well done" or whatever you desire Before you order. Don't send it back afterward. That's not the kitchens fault.

                                                    2. There is a simple fix here. If you go to a restaurant where the food is too salty for your taste, ask them to adjust it. If they can not adjust it or their adjustments are not to your liking you can stop going there.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                        1. re: jpc8015

                                                          Agreed, but I think the bar is going to be lowered as to how much salt is acceptable in restaurants. It is starting with food processors who are reacting to consumer's desires to not eat GMO's, HFCS, artificial sweeteners, MSG etc. I think less salt & sugar will be used in processed foods in the future not because of manufacturer's altruism but because their customers want to feel better about what they eat. As we eat less salt our thresholds will be lowered. We'll become less "addicted" to salt.

                                                        2. I like flavor and salt enhances flavor for me so *too salty* for my palate would equate unpalatable for others. The only time I have experienced *too salty* in some restaurants is with some table butters and creamy cheesy salad dressings using Gorgonzola or Blue cheeses. Even for me those are unpleasant:(

                                                          1. Check out "The Juicy Secret to Seasoning Meat" by Oliver Schwaner-Albright at foodandwine.com. I'd give you the link, but I do not know how to do it. (Computer ignorance strikes this 63 year-old again.)

                                                            The article comes to an interesting conclusion. Some meats benefit immensely from salting twenty-four hours ahead of time. For some, it does not seem to matter, and for some, it dries out the meat or changes the texture and makes it worse.

                                                            To summarize, Schwaner-Albright found that the following meats benefitted a lot from pre-salting 24 hours before cooking: Lamb shanks (amazingly better), grilled chicken (better). The following meat had a mixed review from his testers. Some preferred the 24 hour ahead salting and some preferred salting just before grilling: medium rare or rare ribeye steaks. The following meat was much less tasty when salted 24 hours ahead of cooking: a pork rack.

                                                            I thought that this was interesting, but I do note that it did not address the question of a dish that is composed in stages, such as boeuf bourguignon. My opinion here has been that this sort of recipe requires each component to be salted ahead of time, as most chefs teach.

                                                            But the naysayers here have an argument. I think only another test would give us an answer.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. I'm noticing that a lot of places have cut back on salt and my food seems blander. I've never used a salt shaker in restaurants (except for eggs at a diner), at all, and in the past several months I've found myself asking for it if it's not present, often.

                                                              1. Restaurants should be regulated in regards to how much salt they are allowed to use. We do it for processed foods and for fast food outlets, there is no reason why it can't be done in finer dining establishments.

                                                                We are in a National health crisis, and with government involvement in health care, any regulation is justifiable.

                                                                30 Replies
                                                                1. re: cstumiller

                                                                  I don't know what country you're posting from, but the U.S. does not regulate sodium in processed or fast food. We should.

                                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                                    While I do think many processed food in US are oversalted, I am not sure how one can effectively regulate it. Some food simply requires more salt than others. For example, salted fish will have much higher salt than Hungry-Man, yet I would argue that the salted fish is not overly salted, while Hungry-Man is. So there isn't an easy way that I can see to regulate the processed foods.



                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                      Now I am confused, some salt is "good" and okay because of your taste buds and other salt is bad because too much (in your opinion) is added to the food product?

                                                                      Salt is salt....as part as national healthcare we should be regulating it's use as it leads to any number of serious health ailments.

                                                                      1. re: cstumiller

                                                                        Salt is not a significant health risk, and the more you restrict it, the higher the risks of mortality. Individual needs vary wildly.

                                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                                          I am curious how many nephrologists or renal dialysis patients in end stage renal failure would agree with your statement?

                                                                          1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                            The science on health consequences of sodium in the human diet is, to put it bluntly, lame. Lots of conclusions have been drawn with little to no evidence.

                                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                                              But I was not referencing that was I? My comment was directed at and alluded to the fact that the effects of sodium and every other electrolyte and their interactions in renal insufficiency and renal failure is well established in the legitimate medical community. Opinions are like (fill in the blank) we all have one:)

                                                                        2. re: cstumiller

                                                                          Some food you only use them once awhile, and some are meant for regular meals. Hungry-Men is a brand of prepared frozen food which is meant for regular consumption. Regular consumption of higher salted food is not a good idea. Salted fish is a condiment. It has high concentration of salt, but no one eat it straight.

                                                                      2. re: pikawicca

                                                                        Processed food has labels that tell us what the sodium content is. Quick service restaurants in many areas are required to show sodium content (among other things)...

                                                                        We should also require it of fine dining establishments.

                                                                        1. re: cstumiller

                                                                          Labeling does not equal regulation.

                                                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                                                            Oh I am sorry....I thought that perhaps we had labeling regulations. Perhaps they are laws? Why do food companies put salt content on the labels?

                                                                            1. re: cstumiller

                                                                              Labeling is required, but the amount of sodium allowed is not regulated.

                                                                          2. re: cstumiller

                                                                            The labelling will be useless, as only commodified foods can claim a sample size for averages to have any meaningful claim to a slight measure of accuracy.

                                                                            1. re: Karl S

                                                                              Perhaps you are correct but isn't this topic about "Salt"....I don't see any reason why the government can't require a chef to measure the salt they put on each individual dish..would that be so hard? It might incrementally raise the cost but that is a choice each restaurant, either have legitimate sample sizes or take the measurements as they cook. Pretty simple really and since we all agree that government should be involved in healthcare it would seem wise.

                                                                              Or perhaps just a tax or surcharge on those restaurants that don't want to willingly participate in the system that will benefit all.

                                                                              1. re: cstumiller

                                                                                Yes, it would be so hard. And unenforceable. Chefs would just make it up. And health inspectors could not enforce because there's no reliable way to test/measure that would withstand court scrutiny while remaining cost-effective to taxpayers. (As things stand now, in commodified food, what you see in nutritional labels is averages, which can be rather far afield of accuracy in many cases.)

                                                                                The idea is untethered to reality.

                                                                                1. re: cstumiller

                                                                                  "....since we all agree that government should be involved in healthcare....."

                                                                                  Talk about making a wide and foolish assumption.

                                                                                  1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                                    How about most agree that government should be involved in healthcare.

                                                                                  2. re: cstumiller

                                                                                    "I don't see any reason why the government can't require a chef to measure the salt they put on each individual dish..would that be so hard?"

                                                                                    So the next thing to do would be to tell the chef is how much butter he can put into the dish, the size of the the serving, how many calories should be in a serving, whether that particular ingredient should be used at all.

                                                                                    Then we can move into the home kitchen and make sure no one uses unapproved ingredients or inappropriate quantities.

                                                                                    What you have described is impossible, unenforceable and probably impermissible. You can't legislate that people have to eat what someone else thinks is a healthy diet. There are so many reasons why government can't do what you have suggested.

                                                                                    1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                      We do ask bartenders not to serve drunk people any more alcohol.

                                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                        Yes, but you have to be clearly drunk and behaving in a obnoxious or dangerous manner. I've been three sheets to the wind in many bars and they continue to serve me with no issue. I'm a friendly drunk. Simply being drunk hasn't ever resulted in me being cutoff.

                                                                                        1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                          I thought the idea to refuse serving a drunk is not just for the establishment, but also for the person safety (in case he/she need to drive). I always wonder if a restaurant should refuse serving food to obese people.

                                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                            It is for the safety of the people around the drunk; not the drunk himself. The establishment is liable if the drunk hurts or kills anyone while driving; starts a fight with another patron and harms them; etc. The restaurant or bar is not responsible for the health of the drunk himself.

                                                                                    2. re: cstumiller

                                                                                      "The idea is untethered to reality."

                                                                                      Well said.

                                                                                  3. re: cstumiller


                                                                                    " Salt restriction increased the risk of all-cause mortality in those with heart failure (end of trial RR 2.59, 1.04-6.44, 21 deaths).We found no information on participant's health-related quality of life."

                                                                                2. re: cstumiller

                                                                                  Salt has nothing to do with any national health crisis, restricting it raises mortality, except in a very few folks with a particular hormonal condition.


                                                                                  "Taken together, our current findings refute the estimates of computer models of lives saved and health care costs reduced with lower salt intake.5- 7 They do also not support the current recommendations of a generalized and indiscriminate reduction of salt intake at the population level."

                                                                                  1. re: mcf

                                                                                    Only a minority of people with primary hypertension have the sodium-sensitive type. Most GPs are unaware of this, as are many nutritionists.

                                                                                    1. re: Karl S

                                                                                      Exactly. And those folks are not getting what they need, treatment for the cause of their aldosteronism, instead of salt restriction and pills.

                                                                                  2. re: cstumiller

                                                                                    No, it isn't.

                                                                                    There is no legitimate case to be made for salt restriction in any but a small minority of folks who have a bigger problem than cutting salt will fix.

                                                                                    Let them regulate filth and disgusting food production practices, that IS their job.

                                                                                    1. re: cstumiller

                                                                                      I'm more for informed consumers and personal choice

                                                                                    2. I usually want more salt in my restaurant food, me. I'd say, go to restaurants which do not serve salty food, problem solved. the people calling for some kind of regulation are - to put it kindly - misguided. Cook at home, no salt, problem solved.

                                                                                      1. I salt lightly at home. When we go on vacation I do not taste the salt in the food often, but by the 4tth or 5th day my feet and ankles are swollen. We are more active on vacation, so it is not that. It is the salt in the foods whether I taste it or not.
                                                                                        I also cringe when the tv chefs add salt to their food, and no longer wonder why I react to restaurant food as I do.
                                                                                        And Zippyhead, I do gain over 5 lbs of water weight also. Only takes a few days of home cooking to remedy that situation. But now hubby does have a heart condition, and limited fluid intake, so we will have to be very aware of fluid intake and weight gain for him.

                                                                                        14 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Nanzi

                                                                                          I'm a salt fiend, but there's a noodle soup place in town that has a braised beef noodle soup (perfect hangover cure!). Whenever I eat it, my eyes are super-puffy the next day and I generally way up to 5 lbs. more.

                                                                                          It is mighty tasty, tho.

                                                                                          1. re: Nanzi

                                                                                            I'm always astonished at how much weight I can gain (temporarily) by simply having a bowl of restaurant ramen for lunch. I don't feel any different, but it's like I'm drawing water from the air around me. And it ain't the noodles, 'cause a plate of homemade linguine and sauce does not produce anything near the same effect.

                                                                                            1. re: small h

                                                                                              It might be more about the noodles than the sodium. Because of their alkaline treatment, ramen and certain other Asian noodles can absorb more water without disintegrating....

                                                                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                I'm sure there's some truth to that, but it can't possibly account for 3+ lbs of extra weight. Or I'd be watching ramen noodles morph into udon noodles before my eyes. The salt just makes my body guard water very jealously.

                                                                                                1. re: small h

                                                                                                  Same here. Puffy eyes and fingers, too.

                                                                                                  1. re: small h

                                                                                                    Oh, it does. Every time I carb up, it's 3 lbs minimum, sometimes 5. Every glycogen molecule from stored glucose is attached to three stored water molecules. This is what accounts for the 10 lb water loss often discussed with low carb diets. All I do is go back down for two days and it whooshes out.

                                                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                                                      I have no problem with carbs. None. Zero. I eat rice or pasta or potatoes or bread (and sometimes all four) every day. But one big bowl of salty soup from my favorite takeout Chinese place and you'd think I'd grown a lead limb.

                                                                                                      1. re: small h

                                                                                                        I believe you, we're all different. I'm just saying that it *can* be and often is the noodles instead.

                                                                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                                                                          I'm very glad that in my case, it is not. While I'm sure I could learn to live without carbs, I'm also grateful that I don't have to.

                                                                                                          1. re: small h

                                                                                                            I had to, and it was not an easy nor fast, smooth transition, more like claw marks left on a pizza box as I was dragged away. :-)

                                                                                                            I never gave up carbs, I eat piles of them, just not starches and sugars, for the most part.

                                                                                                        2. re: small h

                                                                                                          It is the excess sodium. You are correct:)

                                                                                                    2. re: Karl S

                                                                                                      In my case, it's the noodles, always has been.

                                                                                                2. So now we're legalizing pot in this country and people are lining up to buy it, some with their kids, so they can smoke together, and others want the government to regulate salt use in restaurants. I give up!

                                                                                                  1. Went to a local Italian place with a new chef for dinner this evening. Salad -- over-salted croutons and dressing. Risotto -- 4 bites and I was done, couldn't handle the salt load. Did the server care? No.

                                                                                                    1. I find salt in restaurant foods very frustrating. I cook most of my own food, using moderate amounts of salt. When I of out to eat, I tend to pick chef driven types of places... And it just seems like such a crap shoot. I expect that this food will be richer that what I cook, and will need more salt. But too often I get dishes with wonderful, fresh ingredients, and all you can taste is salt. It seems a lot depends on how much the cooks thoughs in while cooking (or worse.. Finishing salt), and it varies from plate to plate.

                                                                                                      1. I'm annoyed when the cumulative salt from a restaurant meal causes me to wake up and guzzle water in the middle of the night, or causes me to retain water to the point where my fingers start to feel stiff. I've been having that sort of reaction from some Korean, Indian, Thai, Middle Eastern and West Indian resto food lately, including when I'm not overeating, so I'll be watching my portions even more carefully in the future, skipping salty sides, and drinking lots of water before, during and after the meal, and before bed.

                                                                                                        I never had issues w salt at any restaurants owned/operated by Jean Georges, and seem to have more of a problem with salty resto food in Toronto than in NYC.

                                                                                                        1. I have not added salt to my food for years and never had a problem with restaurant food until recently. It is so salty I can't eat it. I am wondering if some restaurants are ditching the sugar and adding more salt to compensate.

                                                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: annievkminn

                                                                                                            Well, admittedly - your tolerance for salt is likely incredibly low.

                                                                                                            1. re: annievkminn

                                                                                                              I've found the opposite. After not adding salt to my food for many years, I'm finding restaurant food terribly under salted in the last year or so. I never, ever in my life used anything but a pepper mill in restaurants, but find myself reaching for the salt all the time now.

                                                                                                              1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                My taste buds have devolved with age to a point where I need more salt to "taste" my food. I've always liked salt so now I have to be extra careful when I'm cooking for others.

                                                                                                                1. re: zackly

                                                                                                                  Allergies*, and gustatory rhinitis (yes, a real thing: post-nasal drip that is triggered by eating warm/hot food), also drive a need for salt, because it amplifies flavors obscured by congestion. Reason #1 that chefs who insist they've seasoned something to perfect don't understand reality.

                                                                                                                  * Increased prevalence over the course of the year, as growing seasons lengthen and hyper-allergenic species spread, also because more people are able to keep their homes at temperatures that favor dust mites and clothes dryers do a poor job compared to UV rays of sunshine over a clothesline in discouraging dust mite eggs in bedding....

                                                                                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                    Dust mites can't survive under 50% humidity, so I make sure to stay below it.

                                                                                                            2. I think the cure for oversalting has to start at the culinary school level. Many of us are used to undersalting, but I doubt it's being taught at the basic chef or cook level.
                                                                                                              Altho I seldom get a restaurant meal that tastes too salty, I always come home from vacationing, mostly in Myrtle Beach SC, with swollen feet and ankles. After a few days of eating my cooking, the swelling subsides. Says something, doesn't it?

                                                                                                              13 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: Nanzi

                                                                                                                Is salt the only thing different about your food and drink on vacation?

                                                                                                                1. re: Nanzi

                                                                                                                  I find I retain around an extra 2lbs of water after most vacations, especially when I visit Newfoundland, the Maritimes, Boston and the OBX.

                                                                                                                  Even if the food doesn't taste salty, whatever salt is in the chowders, fried seafood and lobster rolls seems to cause my weight to go up a couple lbs, and it's back down after I've been eating at home for a few days. I'm sure the fried food doesn't help. Usually within 48 hours things are back to normal.

                                                                                                                  1. re: prima

                                                                                                                    Yes, it's carbs that cause me to bloat, salt actually gets rid of it, and lowers my bp. I think most folks eat different than usual foods on vacation, and it can be hard to separate the effects of salt from the stuff it's a passenger in/on.

                                                                                                                    For me, a slice of toast puts on 3lbs of bloat overnight, but I never get swollen feet, just mid section and all over bloat.

                                                                                                                    We's all diff'rent. :-)

                                                                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                      I don't get swollen feet either- just hits my mid section. I also tend to bloat after shawarma, dim sum, Thai, Korean, and Japanese food.

                                                                                                                      1. re: prima

                                                                                                                        Yeah, sugar/starches. I mostly skip Thai and Korean because I'm diabetic, or make it at home. Overly sweet for me.

                                                                                                                        I eat shawarma without bread, just the insides, or on low carb pitas if I bring it home. Same with gyros and souvlaki, etc.

                                                                                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                          I like the shawarma on salad, but it still makes me bloat.

                                                                                                                          1. re: prima

                                                                                                                            Too bad, it's such good stuff! For me, white flour, white potatoes and even one section of an orange give me instantaneous mid section bloat reaction, it's amazing. Those are the only three things I can think of that are so immediate and severe that I can pinpoint them so accurately.

                                                                                                                            Any day I cut carbs super low, I get rid of 3 lbs, as long as I have enough salt, potassium, etc.

                                                                                                                            1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                              I'm curious to know if digestive enzymes help you.

                                                                                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                In what way? I know they come with a warning to diabetics, presumbly because they hasten digestibility. I don't have any digestive issues, just water bloat after eating to much carb, some are big triggers. Fortunately, I very rarely do.

                                                                                                                                1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                  I was just wondering if you were maybe having trouble digesting the carbs, which will cause bloat.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                    Oh, no I have no digestive issues. Bloating is typical of carbs... that's why so much is made of the "it's all water loss" argument about low carb diets.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                        what's shocking to me is how instantaneous it is with those few foods. I don't normally bloat any more... so low carb and plenty of protein.

                                                                                                                                        The water whoosh is because each stored glycogen molecule is attached to three water molecules... so you get beginner's WHOOSH.

                                                                                                                2. Here's the thing. There are many kinds of sodium other than added table salt that can be present when a restaurant uses ANY processed foods - especially in purchased stocks, broths, sauces, and "bases". If a restaurant uses NO manufactured ingredients and salts according to culinary school instruction, i.e. salting during several phases of a complex dish, the sodium total will not be terribly high.

                                                                                                                  Actually, I find that if a dish is not salted at the appropriate stages during the cooking process, piling on a ton of salt from the table shaker still doesn't make it salty enough, because it's on top of the food, not in the food. Salt actually needs to be in both places, in and on food, to provide its full taste benefit. Not a LOT of salt, just moderate salt, cleverly used along the way.

                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                    <<"...I find that if a dish is not salted..... piling on a ton of salt from the table shaker still doesn't make it salty enough, because it's on top of the food, not in the food. Salt actually needs to be in both places, in and on food, to provide its full taste benefit. Not a LOT of salt, just moderate salt,...">>



                                                                                                                    (*if someone has a dietary restriction, they should let the waitstaff know to tell the kitchen not to serve them anchovies on the salad, or they should just not consume the anchovies on the salad and place them in the monkey dish on the side of the table.)

                                                                                                                  2. A little more info on salt, and the silliness of "Healthy Himalayan Pink Salt"


                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: ospreycove

                                                                                                                      Not fer nuthin', but this is just a quackwatch ripoff and both are FOS, IME.

                                                                                                                      1. re: ospreycove

                                                                                                                        I have tried so hard to read this website in the past, but every word read there makes stronger my case that these people are arrogant and ignorant, my least favorite combination of traits.

                                                                                                                        They're idiots who've been foolishly allowed to use words.

                                                                                                                      2. A friend of mine told me when I go to Sizzlers Restaurant to tell the cook that I don't want any salt on my Steak.Now the reason why is because the cooks throw Salt on the grill before frying the Steak,so if he adds anymore Salt other then whats on the grill the Steak could come out to salty.I noticed my Steak was rather salty.Some foods like Greens,Beans and grits,taste very bland to me so sometimes, its a must that I add a sprinkle of salt.