Q: I was recently put on a low-sodium diet. I understand that cooking and eating at home is my best choice, but I don’t want to avoid dining out entirely. What’s the best way to do this? Menus don’t say how much sodium is in each dish. Should I call restaurants beforehand and ask for suggestions? Ask waiters? Can I ask them to tell the chef to make my order with less salt?
A: The first thing I would suggest is to ask for sauces and dressings on the side. Those are usually a big source of salt, and this way you can control how much goes on. And yes, I would explain to the waiter that you are sensitive to salt and to please ask the chef to use less. It seems like a reasonable request to me.
Eating on vacation advice
Q: Eating well on vacation is really tough. I usually fall off the bandwagon entirely. How can I stay on without obsessing?
A: You should definitely not obsess, but also avoid the “hey, what the heck, I’m on vacation!” blowout mentality. When I am on vacation I try to eat mostly like I do at home, except I build in two to three special treats each day. I also try to do something active each day, which immerses me even more in the vacation experience. I was just in Mexico, and I swam, snorkeled, kayaked and ran on the beach. I would eat a healthful, simple breakfast and lunch, but I always made room for a piña colada and some chips and guacamole later in the afternoon.
Navigating diet camps
Q: I love food, and I’m studying in the nutrition field, but I sometimes get overwhelmed when I see so many people judging others’ food choices – some saying paleo is the best, raw, veganism, etc. How do you deal with negative comments of people when you don’t share the same diet?
A: It is amazing to me how people are now in different “camps” with their dietary beliefs and how dogmatic people can be. The truth is that there are many possible great eating patterns. And different ones work for different people. Humans are amazingly adaptable that way. And, as far as I can tell, judgmental and dogmatic thinking never did anyone much good. I suggest looking at the common ground. There are certain points that everyone agrees on, such as eating fewer processed foods and more vegetables. I’d focus on that and, frankly, not waste time on any judgmental, dogmatic person who is just picking a fight.