Are You Eating Too Much Salt?

PHOTO A report released from the Center for Science in the Public Interest lists the saltiest meals at chain restaurants.

Salt: It's the not-so-secret ingredient in tasty treats like chicken fingers, onion rings and tomato juice.

But today one group advocating healthy eating says that at some chain restaurants, we may be getting nearly four times the amount of salt we need in a day in one single sitting.

"If the meal was high in fat, it was high in salt. If it was low in fat, it was low in salt. Salt city at restaurants," Michael Jacobson, executive director of Center for Science in the Public Interest told ABC News.


CSPI released a report this morning detailing which restaurants are the worst offenders when it comes to meals packed with sodium.

Watch "World News with Charles Gibson" TONIGHT at 6:30 p.m. ET for the full report.

Instead of eating those meals, some suggest steering clear of salty foods and choosing healthier alternatives when eating out, cooking at home and even opting for drive-through where portions are smaller.

VIDEO: A new study reveals high sodium levels found in meals at some restaurant chains.

U.S. dietary guidelines recommend healthy adults get a maximum daily dose of about 2,300 mg of salt. But some of the meals on CSPI's list had more than 6,000 mg. With large portion sizes, sit-down restaurants like Red Lobster, Chili's and Olive Garden can be more of a problem than fast food.

Doctors like Keith Ayoob, director of the nutrition clinic at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, worry because too much salt can contribute to high blood pressure, potentially leading to heart attack and stroke.

But salt is an inexpensive flavor enhancer that your taste buds quickly get used to and crave -- and it can be tricky to monitor how much you're consuming, Ayoob said.

Two cases in point: An otherwise healthy stir-fry can be loaded with salt and so can broth-based soups.

"It's not something like fat where you can kind of see a greasy food and you know it's there," Ayoob told ABC News.

That's one reason restaurants that made the list say they work hard to keep customers informed and offer healthy choices.

Red Lobster, for instance, posts nutritional content for all of its meals on its Web site,, and in its restaurants. An online calculator also lets customers add up what they're consuming in a full meal and swap in healthier alternatives.

"Red Lobster offers many options for those watching their sodium intake, including up to eight species of fresh fish in each restaurant and a Lighthouse menu with selections less than 500 calories and 750mg of sodium," Red Lobster's communications director Mark Jaronski said in a statement.

He added that both the American Heart Association and theAmerican Dietetic Association recommend eating seafood at least twice a week.

Chili's, too, publicizes nutrition information including sodium content online and offers a "guiltless grill" menu that gives diners healthier options.

A Push to Highlight Salt Content on Menus

In a Monday statement, Chili's said it started looking into modifying its menu earlier this year to reduce sodium in its meals.

"As the science around sodium consumption continues to evolve and recommendations are developed regarding consumption of sodium, Chili's will continue to incorporate that factual data into our menu development," the statement read.

Many other chain restaurants also post sodium content on their Web sites, but there's a push to list sodium on menus as well.

At CSPI, Jacobson credited restaurants like KFC, Burger King and Pizza Hut for starting to cut back on salty choices.

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