The 7 Best Lower-Sodium Fast-Food Vendors

Tacos with lime slices, guacamole, and coleslaw resting on a marble surface

There really is a way to get some healthier savory or sweet snacks on the go. Here we present some of the healthier options.

Key takeaways:

  • Fast foods have traditionally been associated with high sodium content
  • Americans are ditching fast foods loaded with salt and sugar and embracing heart-healthy meals
  • Several top-tier fast-food chains are now offering low-sodium meal options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert

The world’s love of fast food has been linked to serious conditions, including obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease, all of which can be fatal. Thankfully, the public is realizing the dangers and demanding healthier alternatives, fueling a booming low-sodium snack market.

Fast-food vendors are staking their claim by providing a variety of lower-sodium options. This guide will spotlight the companies offering interesting choices, warn you about where high sodium may be hiding in your order, and alert chains to a lower-sodium salt that could revolutionize their menu.

Some food for thought before you order

Always consult your doctor before making any dietary changes based on sodium intake. When you’re clear to eat fast food, beware of those little condiment packets. They may be delectable, but they’re also disappointing when it comes to sodium content.

For example, a single ketchup packet from Arby’s contains 158 mg of sodium. This is well below the recommended daily sodium limit of under 2,300 mg, but many people squeeze more than one packet onto fast food. Skip the condiments to further reduce the amount of sodium you consume, and choose water to drink.

Now, let’s review the seven best fast-food vendors for when you’re in a hurry:

1. McDonald’s

America’s biggest fast-food chain supplies a reference sheet; consult this to help you avoid their highest-sodium meals while identifying lower-sodium ones and their related daily value:

  • Snack-Size Fruit and Walnut Salad (60 mg of sodium, 2% DV)
  • Fruit ’n Yogurt Parfait (85 mg, 4% DV)
  • Premium Southwest Salad without chicken (150 mg, 6 % DV)
  • French fries, small (160 mg, 7% DV)

Remember to consider how badly condiments can impact a low-sodium diet. Spicy buffalo sauce from McDonald’s has 800 mg of sodium.

2. Taco Bell

This chain has reduced sodium across their menu by 15% since 2008 and aims for 25% by 2025. This is good, because many of their options are extremely high in sodium. The following are among their most heart healthy:

  • Cinnabon Delights, two-pack (80 mg, 3.4% DV)
  • Chips and Nacho Cheese (280 mg, 12.1% DV)
  • Crunchy Taco – Specialties (300 mg, 13% DV)
  • Black Beans and Rice (370 mg, 16% DV)

A low-sodium strategy if you must have Taco Bell tacos is skipping flour tortillas which, if their home brand is any indicator, contain 380 mg (16% DV) of sodium. Order crunchy corn shells instead.

3. Chipotle

Chipotle breaks down their foods and condiments by sodium content on page 2 of their nutrition facts chart. Here are some of their least-salty choices:

  • Supergreens Mix Salad (15 mg, 0.6 % DV)
  • Chips from their kids’ menu (95 mg, 4.1% DV) 
  • Cilantro-Lime Brown Rice (190 mg, 8.2% DV)
  • Chicken with Supergreens Mix in a bowl (325 mg, 14.1% DV)

The same warning applies to Chipotle as for every other chain: don’t add condiments, and your body will thank you.

4. Subway

Adults may want to grab a bite from the kids’ menu. The usual sandwiches pack a heavy sodium punch. Here are the lowest-sodium items from their Nutrition Data Tables:

  • Veggie Delite Salad (75 mg, 3.2% DV)
  • Kids’ Mini Sub Veggie Delite Sandwich (210 mg, 9.1% DV)
  • Grilled Chicken (210 mg, 9.1% DV)
  • Tuna with Veggie Delite Salad (385 mg, 16.7% DV)

Subway relies more heavily on bread than most fast-food vendors. Be careful with bread in general, and particularly from Subway, where it can contain hundreds of grams of sodium.

5. Starbucks

Starbucks is just as likely to serve fast food as the latest latte. Try their lowest-sodium options:

  • Greek Yogurt and Honey Parfait (60 mg, 2.6% DV)
  • Gluten-Free Flourless Chocolate Cookie (110 mg, 4.7% DV)
  • Whole-Grain Oatmeal (125 mg, 5.4% DV)
  • Multigrain Bagel (420 mg, 18.2% DV)

Grabbing only a coffee doesn’t mean you’re avoiding sodium. Coffee contains milk, one cup of which can have between 120 mg and 130 mg of sodium. That’s important to remember if you’re one of the millions of sweet-toothed snackers stopping at Starbucks.

6. Wendy’s breaks down the Wendy’s menu across multiple nutritional categories. The lowest-sodium foods you can buy here cover both savory and sweet:

  • Summer Berry Burst Fruit Cup (0 mg)
  • Sour Cream and Chive Baked Potato (35 mg, 1.5% DV)
  • Chocolate Chunk Cookie (210 mg, 9.1% DV)
  • Natural-Cut Fries, small (320 mg, 13.9% DV)

Wendy’s also provides salads, but sticking to the choices above will be better for your health. Their lowest-calorie salad, the Parmesan Caesar, has 790 mg (34.3% DV) of sodium.

7. Panera Bread

A browse through Panera’s nutrition information shows there are some quick treats available that don’t involve bread. Make these your top choices on your next Panera stop:

  • Kids’ Stonyfield Organic Low-Fat Strawberry Yogurt Squeezers (35 mg, 1.5% DV)
  • Two Scrambled Eggs (90 mg, 3.9% DV)
  • Kettle-Cooked Chips (135 mg, 5.8% DV)
  • Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Strawberries, Pecans & Cinnamon Crunch Topping (150 mg, 6.5% DV)

Panera’s range of dressings and toppings are as high in sodium as their competitors’ offerings. The smart consumer will avoid toppings, which also means sacrificing flavors they enjoy. That won’t be necessary when food and condiment manufacturers add lower-sodium salt to their production processes.

MicroSalt® can help fast-food companies serve safer meals

Lower-sodium salt exists just like lower-sodium fast food does. The super-small particle created by MicroSalt® is all natural, delivers 50% less sodium by weight, and is twice as salty as regular salt. We’ve crafted it to be versatile and adaptable to the demands of international markets and to integrate seamlessly with existing production processes and equipment.

It’s our goal to make food manufacturers worldwide understand the many benefits that MicroSalt® can bring to businesses and to consumer health. Visit our contact page, and let’s talk about creating better food, fast!

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