Here’s a list of 20 potentially lower-sodium options at various fast food restaurants. Please note that sodium content can vary based on preparation and location, so these options may not be entirely sodium-free but may be relatively lower in sodium compared to other menu items.
Always check the latest nutritional information or consult with the restaurant for the most accurate details.
If you have high blood pressure, there are numerous reasons why reducing your sodium intake should be considered. In all honesty, starting at the fast-food counter is not the ideal choice and it should not be a regular part of your healthy eating routine.
However, this does not mean that you have to completely avoid the drive-thru as long as you are aware of what to order.
We consulted nutrition experts and registered dietitians to create a compilation of 21 low-sodium fast-food options, allowing you to maintain your heart-healthy diet even when limited to McDonald’s and Taco Bell.
1. Taco Bell’s Crunchy Taco With Beef, “Fresco Style”
The Fresco Style Crunchy Taco with Beef is a healthier option compared to other tacos, with only 270 mg of sodium. By replacing the cheddar cheese with tomatoes, it becomes a low-sodium snack that is still satisfying due to its protein and fiber content.
For a more filling meal, choosing two of these beef tacos will provide less sodium (540 mg) than one Taco Bell Beef Burrito Supreme (1,110 mg), making it a good choice for those watching their sodium intake.
RELATED: Taco Bell Breakfast
2. Subway 6″ Veggie Delite
Despite the lack of low-sodium options at Subway, the Veggie Delite sandwich on 9-Grain Wheat bread stands out as one of the least sodium-heavy items on their menu. For individuals following a restricted sodium diet, this sandwich is highly recommended by Montemayor.
To enhance its protein content without exceeding high levels of sodium found in cold cuts, Montemayor suggests incorporating Swiss cheese into the mix. This addition elevates protein to 13 grams while keeping sodium levels relatively moderate.
According to Kimberly Gomer, MS, RD, LDN, the director of nutrition at Pritikin Longevity Center – an internationally acclaimed lifestyle health resort program – one notable advantage of indulging in a sandwich is its provision of two vegetable servings along with substantial amounts of vitamins A and C.
To enhance your meal experience further while ensuring satiety levels are met adequately, she recommends pairing your sub with a substantial piece of fruit like a sizeable apple from home. This way, not only do you nourish your body effectively but you also experience feelings of fullness.
3. In-N-Out Burger’s ‘Protein Style’ Hamburger
The use of lettuce as a substitute for the bun in this option results in a sodium content of only 370 milligrams and provides 240 calories.
According to Montemayor, ordering your burger protein-style can significantly decrease its sodium levels while still preserving most of its flavors compared to a regular burger.
If you choose to go sans-bun, you will save yourself from consuming an additional 280 milligrams of sodium when compared to having the burger with the bun, which contains 650 milligrams.
Furthermore, eliminating the bun will also result in a reduction of 150 calories and an avoidance of consuming 18 grams of carbs. It’s worth mentioning that incorporating just one slice of cheese into your order will elevate the sodium content to 720 milligrams.
4. Panera’s Steel-Cut Oatmeal With Almonds, Quinoa & Honey
Craving a low-sodium fast-food breakfast? Look no further than Panera’s Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Almonds, Quinoa, and Honey. With a mere 150 milligrams of sodium, this dish only contributes to 9% of the recommended daily value.
Chef Julie Harrington, RD praises the inclusion of quinoa for its nutty flavor and texture as well as its ability to introduce ancient grains in innovative ways.
Not only does this bowl satisfy your taste buds, but it also provides an impressive amount of nutrition with 10 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber per serving. And the best part? It all comes in at just 320 calories and a modest sugar content of 7 grams.
5. Chipotle’s Burrito Bowl With Chicken & Fajita Vegetables
Enjoy a healthier alternative at the popular Mexican chain without sacrificing flavor or nutrition. To reduce your sodium intake, Toth suggests opting for a Burrito Bowl with chicken and fajita vegetables, complemented by lettuce and sour cream.
With just 490 milligrams of sodium, this choice stands out as one of the lowest-sodium options on the menu while offering a generous 35 grams of protein for muscle support and long-lasting satisfaction.
6. Wendy’s Plain Baked Potato
Karen Z. Berg, MS, RD, CDN suggests that her go-to choice when she’s on the go and limited on options is a plain baked potato from Wendy’s due to its low sodium content of only 40 milligrams.
She adds that for those looking to increase their sodium intake slightly by 15 milligrams can opt for adding sour cream and chives as toppings.
According to her, what makes this particular food appealing is its status as a whole food that guarantees clarity in terms of nutritional composition while also providing an added bonus of 1,560 milligrams of potassium alongside its modest calorie count of just 270.
7. Smoothie King’s Vegan Pineapple Spinach Smoothie
This 320-calorie shake contains 200 milligrams of sodium, making it a suitable option for a light meal or a post-workout protein shake. The Vegan Pineapple Spinach blend is packed with organic spinach and carrots, providing essential vegetables.
Additionally, it is a great source of protein and supplies over 30% of your daily fiber needs.
According to nutrition and weight loss expert Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, you can personalize your blend by adding more protein and veggies if desired. Furthermore, Smoothie King’s blends do not contain added sugar or artificial ingredients.
8. Chick-fil-A’s 8-Count Grilled Chicken Nuggets
The sodium content of this menu item is 440 mg, but if you add half a packet of honey mustard sauce, it increases to 515 mg. Despite being low in calories (only 140), it contains a substantial amount of protein (25 grams) and provides 19% of your daily value for sodium.
To keep your sodium intake even lower, you can pair it with their Fruit Cup which has no sodium. If you prefer some extra flavor, you can use half a packet of Honey Mustard Sauce for dipping, which will bring the total sodium content to 515 milligrams.
According to Montemayor, Chick-fil-A’s grilled chicken nuggets offer a healthy dose of lean protein and are much lower in sodium compared to the original Chick-fil-A nuggets. By opting for the grilled version, I can still feel satiated without consuming excessive amounts of sodium.
And if I use the dipping sauce sparingly, I can enjoy my meal while keeping my sodium intake in check. Additionally, adding a fruit cup to my order ensures that I get a good mix of nutrients and fiber without any added salt.
9. Starbucks’ PB&J Protein Box
This grab-and-go lunch box is a well-balanced combination of different flavors and textures, explains Maggie Moon, MS, RD. As an expert in nutrition based in Los Angeles and author of The MIND Diet, she recommends it for its variety of healthy foods.
The box includes rich protein-packed peanut butter, soft whole grain bread, tart calcium-rich yogurt dip with cheese as well as crisp fruits and veggies. It’s not only satisfying but also provides 20 grams of filling protein to keep you satiated throughout the day.
10. Panda Express Sweet & Sour Chicken
Contrary to expectations, there are actually some low-sodium choices available in the realm of takeout Chinese food, such as those offered by Panda Express. One such option is the Sweet & Sour Chicken, which contains just 260 milligrams of sodium per serving.
Additionally, this dish is also suitable for those looking to shed some pounds since it only has 300 calories.
However, it’s important to note that due to its higher sugar content (24 grams per serving), it should be considered more of an indulgence rather than a regular dietary choice in order to maintain healthy blood pressure levels.
11. McDonald’s 4-Piece Chicken McNuggets
If you’re looking for a snack that provides some protein and helps curb hunger, consider opting for McDonald’s four-piece chicken McNuggets, suggests Amanda Sauceda, MS, RD, a nutritionist specializing in gut health based in Long Beach, CA.
With 330mg of sodium per serving, these nuggets offer a filling and hearty bite to hold you over until your next meal. Sauceda emphasizes that while it may not be equivalent to a full meal, this choice can still provide the necessary protein to help you feel satisfied during snack time.
12. Starbucks’ Strawberry Overnight Grains
Sodium: 15 mg
Starbucks’ Strawberry Overnight Grains is a wholesome breakfast option. A blend of rolled oats, chia seeds, and almond milk forms a creamy base, while layers of sliced strawberries add natural sweetness.
This nutritious, convenient meal is prepared the night before, allowing flavors to meld. Packed with fiber, omega-3s, and vitamins, it offers a delightful and nourishing start to your day.
13. Chick-fil-A’s Greek Yogurt Parfait With Granola
Sodium: 80 mg
Looking to cut down on sodium? Chick-fil-A’s Greek Yogurt Parfait With Granola is your go-to option. According to Yule, this item may have more sugars than savory dishes but it’s primarily because of the fruit and dairy components.
Notably, the parfait offers a substantial 13 grams of protein, 15 DV calcium, riboflavin from dairy sources, and phytochemicals from fruits.
It stands out as one of the few low-sodium choices at this establishment and adheres to the FDA’s standard definition for low-sodium items with under 140 milligrams of sodium per serving.
14. Panera’s ½ Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich + ½ Seasonal Greens Salad
According to Lindsey Toth, MS, RD, from Swanson Health, she enjoys the option of ordering half items in combinations at Panera Bread. Her usual choice is half of a Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich and half of a seasonal greens salad with reduced-fat balsamic vinaigrette.
This combination contains approximately 650 milligrams of sodium. Additionally, Toth mentions that the almonds in the sandwich are a good source of vitamin E and the salad provides carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect the eyes from blue light exposure.
15. Au Bon Pain’s Greek Vanilla Yogurt & Blueberry Parfait
Au Bon Pain’s Greek Vanilla Yogurt and Blueberry Parfait is the perfect choice for health-conscious individuals seeking a quick meal. This delectable treat has an impressively low sodium content of only 115 milligrams, making it an ideal option for breakfast or lunch.
Not only does it satisfy your taste buds with its sweet and creamy texture, but it also provides you with a whopping 24 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. With just 340 calories and 6 grams of fat, you can indulge in this guilt-free delight without compromising your health goals.
16. McDonald’s Fruit & Maple Oatmeal
Christy Brissette, MS, RD, points out that it is quite difficult to consume a low-sodium fast-food meal at McDonald’s even when selecting seemingly healthier options like chicken salads.
With the introduction of all-day breakfast, Brissette now chooses breakfast items regardless of the time. She recommends opting for the Fruit and Maple Oatmeal (without brown sugar), which contains only 140 milligrams of sodium.
Additionally, she suggests adding two scrambled eggs as a side dish with an additional sodium content of 120 milligrams. This way, the entire meal amounts to 260 milligrams of sodium intake.
17. Starbucks’ Protein Bistro Box
Craving some fuel without the excessive sodium intake? Ditch the pastry choices and indulge in the low-sodium Eggs & Cheese Protein Box from Starbucks.
With just 540 mg of sodium, this box is filled with wholesome unprocessed foods like a hard-boiled egg, natural nut butter, fruit, cheese, and a small raisin muffin to complement the nut butter. According to Dr.
Keith Kantor, CEO of NAMED program and an expert in Nutritional Science, Starbucks’ other boxes also offer significantly lower sodium content compared to typical fast food options that usually exceed 1,000 milligrams per serving.
These options are highly recommended due to their superior ingredients quality as well as portion-controlled servings of fresh fruits and vegetables.
18. Pizza Hut’s Veggie Lovers Small Thin ‘N Crispy Slice
Don’t let your cravings for pizza lead you down a slippery slope of devouring an entire pie later on. Instead, embrace your desire for a slice and opt for Pizza Hut’s veggie-filled variety.
Many people assume that pizza is packed with sodium and calories, but this particular slice only contains 100 calories. In addition to being lower in calories and sodium, it also provides antioxidants from the vegetables it’s loaded with, state The Nutrition Twins. They further explain that this single slice has just 3.5 grams of fat and
19. Arby’s Jalapeño Roast Beef Slider (Without Cheese)
According to Brissette, it can be difficult to find a low-sodium fast food meal at Arby’s due to the high sodium content in bread, cheese, seasoned chicken, and meat.
She suggests opting for one of Arby’s sliders without cheese, such as the Jalapeño Roast Beef Slider which contains 470 milligrams of sodium (saving you 200 milligrams if you skip the Swiss cheese).
To accompany the slider, Brissette recommends a side salad with lemon or vinegar for added flavor. Additionally, she advises using only half of Arby’s lowest sodium salad dressing option, the Dijon Honey Mustard Dressing, as it contains 230 milligrams of sodium per packet.
If you want to control your sodium intake, advises Montemayor, it’s a good idea to check the nutrition information for each topping before adding them.
Adding toppings can significantly raise your sodium levels. Montemayor suggests using mustard, tomatoes, grilled chopped onions, jalapeños, green peppers, and lettuce to keep your sodium levels in check.
21. Panera’s Half-Size Fuji Apple Salad With Chicken
Sodium: 370 mg
Panera’s Half-Size Fuji Apple Salad With Chicken is a satisfying option. Tender grilled chicken tops a bed of crisp mixed greens, complemented by flavorful Gorgonzola cheese, crunchy apple chips, and roasted pecans.
The tangy apple vinaigrette dressing adds a zesty touch. This half-size portion provides a balance of protein and nutrients, making it a delicious choice for a lighter meal that doesn’t compromise on taste or quality.
FRequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
low sodium fast food options
Certainly! Here are some low-sodium fast food options that you might consider:
- Grilled Chicken Sandwich or Salad: Many fast food chains offer grilled chicken sandwiches or salads. Opt for these options without added sauces or seasoning to keep the sodium content lower.
- Veggie Burger: Some places offer veggie burgers that can be lower in sodium compared to meat-based options.
- Customized Salads: Create your own salad with fresh vegetables, lean protein (grilled chicken, turkey, or tofu), and a simple vinaigrette dressing on the side.
- Plain Baked Potato: A plain baked potato can be a good option, but avoid adding high-sodium toppings like cheese, bacon, or heavily salted sauces.
- Egg White Breakfast Sandwich: Look for breakfast sandwiches made with egg whites, whole grain bread, and minimal cheese.
- Fresh Fruit Cups: Many fast food places offer fresh fruit cups as a side or snack option.
- Oatmeal: Some places serve oatmeal for breakfast, which can be a heart-healthy and lower-sodium choice.
- Yogurt Parfait: Opt for a yogurt parfait with fresh fruit and granola, but be cautious of added sugars.
- Grilled Fish or Seafood: If available, grilled fish or seafood can be a good source of protein with lower sodium content.
What is considered low sodium?
As per the FDA, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 advise individuals aged 14 and above to restrict their daily sodium intake to 2,300 mg. For those aged 13 and below, an even lower limit is recommended.
Nevertheless, if you have a predisposition to high blood pressure or belong to the group of 116 million Americans with hypertension, it might be beneficial to further reduce your sodium consumption, particularly if advised by your healthcare provider.
According to Ysabel Montemayor, MS, RD, the FDA’s definition of a low-sodium food product is one that contains 140 milligrams of sodium or less per serving. However, Montemayor acknowledges that it is not feasible for fast-food entrées to meet this requirement.
Instead, she suggests opting for fast-food items that have less than 20% of the FDA’s recommended daily value (DV) of 2,300 milligrams based on a 2,000 calorie diet. This translates to approximately 460 milligrams of sodium per serving.
Why should you pay attention to your sodium intake?
It is crucial for individuals who have high blood pressure, hypernatremia, hypertension, or heart failure to monitor their sodium intake. Those with kidney disease should also be cautious about consuming too much sodium as it can strain the kidneys. It is important to follow your doctor’s recommendations.
Even if you do not currently have any of these health conditions, reducing your sodium intake can still be beneficial. The majority of Americans exceed the FDA’s sodium guidelines by a significant amount. In fact, the American Heart Association (AHA) reports that on average, Americans consume over 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day.
The AHA emphasizes the positive impact on blood pressure and heart health that can result from cutting back on sodium by 1,000 milligrams daily.
In fact, the AHA recommends a daily sodium limit of no more than 1,500 milligrams. Interestingly enough, drive-thru options such as burgers and fries often exceed this amount by reaching up to 3,000 milligrams of sodium.
What are the best low-sodium fast food orders?
Naturally, there are moments when we all yearn for fast food. Unless faced with severe health issues, whether you’re on the go, in a state of hangry desperation, or simply desiring a respite from home-cooked meals, dietitians have compiled a list of the top 21 low-sodium fast food options for your consideration.
Best low sodium fast food
Chick-fil-A’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich, with its tender grilled chicken, multigrain bun, and fresh vegetable toppings, is a standout low sodium fast food option. Its balanced flavors and lower sodium content make it a healthier choice without sacrificing taste.
Why should I opt for low sodium fast food?
Choosing low sodium options can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health issues associated with excessive salt intake.
What is considered low sodium in fast food?
Generally, a meal with around 500mg or less of sodium is considered low sodium. However, always check the nutrition information provided by the restaurant.
Which fast food chains offer low sodium choices?
Many chains like Chick-fil-A, Subway, and Panera Bread offer low sodium menu items like grilled chicken salads and customizable sandwiches.
How can I identify low sodium options on a fast food menu?
Look for keywords like “grilled,” “fresh,” and “steamed,” as these items tend to have lower sodium content. Also, check the nutrition guide provided by the restaurant.
Can I customize my order to make it lower in sodium?
Absolutely! You can often request no added salt, sauces on the side, or opt for extra veggies to reduce sodium levels in your fast food meal.
Are there any specific cuisines that are naturally lower in sodium?
Options like salads, grilled lean protein, and vegetable-based dishes are usually lower in sodium across various cuisines.
Are there any common high-sodium ingredients I should watch out for?
Be cautious of ingredients like processed meats, cheese, sauces, and condiments, as they can contribute significantly to sodium levels.
Are there low sodium alternatives to popular fast food items?
Yes, you can often find alternatives like grilled chicken instead of fried, whole-grain buns, and salads with lighter dressings to keep sodium intake in check while enjoying fast food.