Even if you are counting calories, cutting back on sugar, and diligently tracking your fat intake, there’s one item on the nutrition panel that you might be ignoring: sodium. Turns out, the typical American adult eats enough salt a day to cause heart damage, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Researchers found that half of the participants consumed at least 3,730 milligrams of sodium a day—much more than the FDA-recommended max of 2,300 milligrams. Those who ate that much sodium were twice as likely as those who consumed the least sodium to have signs of muscle strain in the heart and have an enlarged left chamber of the heart, which controls pumping oxygen-rich blood into the body.
Although 3,700 milligrams seems like a lot, it’s an easy number to achieve if you’re dining out and not paying attention to the nutrition information. That’s why Eat This, Not That! compiled a list of dishes from popular restaurant chains that each have more than 4,000 milligrams of sodium—nearly twice your recommended daily amount.
“Salt is the deadliest ingredient in the food supply, and one of the biggest problems with chain-restaurant food,” the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) co-founder and senior scientist Michael F. Jacobson explains. “But most chains aren’t making much progress in reducing sodium.”
In efforts to raise awareness, CSPI, home of the Xtreme Eating Awards, just announced winners of the “MilliGrammy,” an award which recognizes restaurant meals that contain an absurd amount of sodium. Award winners included popular picks like Chili’s Crispy Fiery Pepper Crispers (6,240 milligrams), a dish that also landed a spot on our list of the world’s saltiest meals.
Find out if some of your other favorite date-night meals were listed in our report below, and while you’re watching your sodium intake, be sure to avoid The #1 Worst Menu Option at 41 Popular Restaurants.
From Best to Worst…
Red Robin Clucks & Fries Buffalo Style
Chicken fingers and french fries is already a fattening combo, so it’s no surprise this entree from Red Robin clocks in at more than 100 grams of fat (!!!) and about as many calories as you should have in a day. But it’s a sodium bomb too with 4,070 grams—that’s more than 20 salt packets from McDonald’s.
On the Border Three Sauce Fajita Burrito
With such a large tortilla and a selection of salty sauces, it’s no wonder this burrito has a whopping 4,100 mg sodium. And that’s just for the burrito itself; the number goes up an additional 1,000 mg if you add beans and rice on the side.
Quiznos Classic Italian 12-inch Sandwich
This Italian sandwich is like a combo of the saltiest (and fattiest) deli meats available: capicola, salami, ham, and pepperoni. Add to that some olives and a vinaigrette dressing and you’ve got yourself over 4,000 grams of belly-busting sodium. Their Italian meatball sandwich isn’t much better; at 81 grams of fat and 3,580 milligrams of sodium, it made it onto our list of The Worst Sandwiches in America.
Friendly’s Loaded Waffle Fries
As if fries weren’t salty enough, Friendly’s douses theirs with cheddar cheese, bacon, and sour cream. This is one menu item that’s not very friendly for your waistline (or blood pressure).
On The Border Firecracker Stuffed Jalapenos with Queso
These jalapeno poppers should be called “firecracker” because of how much they’ll make your waist explode. In addition to packing more than 150 percent of your day’s worth of saturated fat, these stuffed jalapenos have more sodium than 22 packets of salt.
Yard House Gardein Jerk Wings
Yard House makes a vegan-friendly chicken substitute called Gardein that’s made from soy, wheat, pea protein, vegetables, and grains. The restaurant has about a dozen menu items featuring this meat alternative, including BBQ “chicken” pizza and orange “chicken.” But the biggest sodium bomb is the plate of Jerk Wings which have not only nearly 4,500 milligrams of salt, but also 59 grams of fat.
Applebee’s New England Fish & Chips/Hand Battered Fish Fry
“Fish and chips” is just a fancier term for “deep fried fish and french fries.” Not only will this entree set you back nearly 2,000 calories, but you’ll be downing more than 4,500 milligrams of sodium.
Red Lobster Crispy Calamari and Vegetables
Don’t be fooled by the word “vegetable;” this appetizer has about as many calories as you should eat in a day, and a whopping 4,570 milligrams of sodium—a dangerous amount if you’ll be downing it before your entree even arrives.
Cheesecake Factory Sunrise Fiesta Burrito
The Cheesecake Factory is known for not being exactly transparent with their nutrition information, which is why we could only find the calories, sodium, and carbs in a few of their items. That being said, 4,600 milligrams is a shocking amount for this burrito, as is 128 grams of carbs.
Romano’s Macaroni Grill Classic Italian Bake
With so much salty sausage, cheese, and sauce in this recipe, there’s no wonder it’s twice your daily intake of saturated fat and more than 4,620 milligrams of sodium. Swap it out for the grilled steak and potatoes to save over 3,000 milligrams of sodium and 1,000 calories.
Pei Wei Asian Diner Caramel Regular With Chicken
Even though this chicken dish has some veggies thrown in, that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. After this chicken is tossed in a salty sauce, it’s served on top of a bed of fried rice making it a shocking 1,040 calories and 4,670 milligrams of sodium.
Maggiano’s Gnochhi & Italian Sausage
You already know pasta is carb heavy, which is why the nearly 100 grams of carbs for this gnocchi shouldn’t be a huge shock. But the added salty Italian sausage brings this dish up to nearly 5,000 milligrams of sodium—that’s more than two day’s worth.
Hooters DD Burger
It’s surprising the saltiest thing at Hooters isn’t their famous chicken wings, rather their DD burger. Hooters manages to pack nearly 5,000 milligrams of sodium in this double-meat sandwich.
Applebee’s Salsa Verde Beef Nachos
If you order Applebee’s Salsa Verde Beef Nachos as an app, you’re ingesting over 6,000 milligrams of sodium before your entree even arrives. That’s nearly three days’ worth of sodium and more than an entire day’s worth of calories. Not watching your sodium count is one of the 20 Surprising Reasons Why You’re Gaining Weight.
Chili’s Crispy Fiery Pepper Crispers
The word “crispy” should already be a red flag since it’s just code for deep fried. If the 1,800 calories and 91 grams of fat aren’t enough to scare you away, then the over 6,000 milligrams of sodium certainly should.
P.F. Chang’s Salt and Pepper Calamari
Calamari is almost always a sodium bomb, especially this dish from P.F. Chang’s. It manages to pack 6,400 milligrams of blood pressure-raising sodium in just 750 calories!
Carrabba’s Italian Grill Spaghetti With Sausage With Whole Gluten Free Pasta
Don’t let the “gluten-free” descriptor fool you; at more than 1,080 calories and a shocking 6,430 milligrams of sodium, this pasta dish from Carrabba’s is anything but healthy. Even if you’re gluten-sensitive, you should probably pick something else on the menu.
Bonefish Grill Ahi Tuna Poke
The ahi tuna poke appetizer from Bonefish Grill may sound healthy, and it even looks healthy. And at first glance, it’s not terrible: 540 calories, 30 grams of fat, 26 grams of protein. Then you get to the sodium shocker—6,700 milligrams! That’s nearly three days worth of sodium in an appetizer alone.
Buffalo Wild Wings Large Spicy Garlic Boneless Wings
It’s no surprise that the fried wings at B-Dubs are fattening and caloric, but some of the sauces make them total sodium shockers. The spicy garlic boneless wings pack a shocking 7,620 milligrams of sodium—that’s the equivalent of 4 bags of Lay’s family-sized potato chips!
And the #1 Saltiest Restaurant Meal on the Planet is…
P.F. Chang’s Hot and Sour Soup Bowl
Soup is usually a good alternative when you are trying to eat healthier. At less than 500 calories and just 13 grams of fat, you would think the hot and sour soup bowl from P.F. Chang’s would be healthy. But there are nearly 10,000 (!!!) milligrams of sodium in just one bowl of soup. That’s as much as 39 salt packets or 44 individual bags of Doritos Cool Ranch tortilla chips! And their frozen foods aren’t much better; P.F. Chang’s frozen orange chicken made it on our list of The 67 Worst Frozen Foods in America.