Sodium Levels in Canadian Fast-food and Sit-down Restaurants

Mary J. Scourboutakos, Mary R. L'Abbé


OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the sodium levels in Canadian restaurant and fast-food chain menu items.

METHODS: Nutrition information was collected from the websites of major sit-down (n=20) and fast-food (n=65) restaurants across Canada in 2010 and a database was constructed. Four thousand and forty-four meal items, baked goods, side dishes and children’s items were analyzed. Sodium levels were compared to the recommended adequate intake level (AI), tolerable upper intake level (UL) and the US National Sodium Reduction Initiative (NSRI) targets.

RESULTS: On average, individual sit-down restaurant menu items contained 1455 mg sodium/serving (or 97% of the AI level of 1500 mg/day). Forty percent of all sit-down restaurant items exceeded the AI for sodium and more than 22% of sit-down restaurant stir fry entrées, sandwiches/wraps, ribs, and pasta entrées with meat/seafood exceeded the daily UL for sodium (2300 mg). Fast-food restaurant meal items contained, on average, 1011 mg sodium (68% of the daily AI), while side dishes (from sit-down and fast-food restaurants) contained 736 mg (49%). Children’s meal items contained, on average, 790 mg/serving (66% of the sodium AI for children of 1200 mg/day); a small number of children’s items exceeded the children’s daily UL. On average, 52% of establishments exceeded the 2012 NSRI density targets and 69% exceeded the 2014 targets.

CONCLUSION: The sodium content in Canadian restaurant foods is alarmingly high. A population-wide sodium reduction strategy needs to address the high levels of sodium in restaurant foods.


Sodium; restaurants; fast foods; Canada

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