Drawing from a larger study on restaurant nutrition, this cross-sectional study reports on the sodium density of 30,073 menu items from 237 unique U.S. chain restaurant brands in 2010. Sodium density, defined as mg sodium per 1000 kcal, was evaluated with descriptive statistics and stratified by restaurant characteristics (service model and cuisine), menu type (regular or children’s), and item type. The investigation found that sodium density was very high overall, averaging 2196 mg across all regular menu items, and varied widely by restaurant characteristics and item type. By service model, buffets featured the most sodium-dense foods and upscale restaurants the least. By cuisine, pizza and burger restaurant items were lower in average sodium density than in sandwich, Asian, and chicken restaurants. Sodium density was lower overall for children’s versus regular menu items. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommended upper limit for sodium is 1500 to 2300 mg/day for adults, depending upon risk category. The study found the vast majority of entrées had a sodium density which would be incompatible with USDA upper daily limits, providing evidence that consumers are unlikely to stay within recommended limits after eating a restaurant meal.
Unsavory Choices: The High Sodium Density of U.S. Chain Restaurant Foods
Changes in the Energy and Sodium Content of Main Entrées in U.S. Chain Restaurants from 2010 to 2011
This article examines changes in the energy and sodium content of main entrées among a study population of 213 U.S. chain restaurant brands. Data were collected in spring 2010–when the Affordable Care Act was passed, which included a federal menu labeling requirement–and spring 2011. Entrées that changed between the time … More
This paper discusses availability of nutrition information and nutritional content of menu items in the largest chain restaurants in the United States. Researchers examined the nutritional content of 30,923 menu items–including items from children’s menus–from 245 restaurants across the country. They found that while most main entrees did not exceed … More
Investigating whether Menu-Labeling Laws Lead California Restaurants to Modify the Nutritional Contents of their Offerings
The implementation of a new California law on January 1, 2011, will require chain restaurants to label calories on menus. This study will test the hypothesis that restaurants subject to a calorie labeling law are more likely to improve the caloric and nutritional content of menu items, compared to restaurants … More