Five tips for shaking sodium off the menu

By Devon Peart, Heart and Stroke Foundation registered dietitian
August 13, 2013
Various spices for your restaurant's salt reduction strategy

Canadians consume an average of 3,400 mg of sodium per day – far more than the recommended 2,300 mg.

Most of this comes from processed foods, with only about six per cent coming from salt added at the table. This means that most of the sodium reduction should take place behind the scenes

So, is there something that restaurants can do to help? The answer is yes. With a little creativity and a fully stocked spice rack, there is nothing stopping your restaurant from offering up tasty choices that are sodium-wise.

  • Take a look at the nutrition facts table of the packaged foods in your kitchen to see how much sodium they contain. If possible, ask the supplier if they offer a lower sodium option. If not, consider preparing the item yourself. For instance, if it is pasta or pizza sauce, can you make it from scratch and limit the amount of salt you put in? You may also be able to reduce the ingredient slightly without negatively affecting the menu item.
  • Leave the salt to the side. Dust off the spice rack and reconsider your choices. After all, herbs and spices not only add a kick of taste to your dishes; they can also help define ethnic meals on your menu. And according to the CRFA’s 2013 Chef’s Survey, ethnic dishes are on the rise in popularity. Consider removing salt shakers from tables in your restaurant and only providing them on request. Once your chef experiments with the following herbs and spices, your customers may find they no longer need salt for flavour:
    • Beef – use bay leaf, marjoram, nutmeg, onion, pepper, sage, thyme
    • Lamb – use curry powder, onion, paprika, parsley
    • Pork – use garlic, onion, sage, pepper, oregano
    • Veal – use bay leaf, curry powder, ginger, marjoram, oregano
    • Chicken – use ginger, marjoram, oregano, paprika, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme
    • Fish – use curry powder, dill, dry mustard, lemon juice, marjoram, paprika, pepper
    • Carrots – use cinnamon, cloves, marjoram, nutmeg, rosemary, sage
    • Green beans – use dill, curry powder, lemon juice, marjoram, oregano, tarragon, thyme
    • Peas – use ginger, marjoram, onion, parsley, sage
    • Potatoes – use dill, garlic, onion, paprika, parsley, sage
  • Use fresh salads, fruits and vegetables instead of pickled sides in your dishes.
  • Limit the amount of breads you offer your diners. Breads tend to be a significant contributor of sodium in our diets, so coming up with an alternative or limiting the serving size could go a long way to limiting the overall amount of sodium.
  • Lastly, you can ask our registered dietitians at Health Check for suggestions. Health Check is the food information program of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada that has been helping restaurants put healthier meals on their menus since 2006. For more information about how you can participate, visit

Whether it’s giving spices and herbs a starring role, swapping existing ingredients for sodium-wise options or reducing serving sizes of higher sodium sides, there are many ways to help Canadians limit their sodium intake. In turn, you’ll be helping them reduce their risk of hypertension, which is the number one risk factor for stroke and a major risk factor for heart disease.

About the author:

Devon Peart is a registered dietitian with the Heart and Stroke Foundation and holds a Master’s degree in Community Nutrition. In her role within Health Check, which is the Foundation’s nutrition information program, she is responsible for helping restaurants meet Health Check’s strict nutrient criteria and put healthier meals on their menus. For more information about the program, visit

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