Kidney Diet Tips

Lower Sodium Fast Food Choices

You are out running errands or you are at work and didn’t bring your lunch. Now you need a quick meal. You go to a fast food restaurant, but you want to eat healthy so you order a salad. Thinking you made a great choice to stick to your kidney diet, then you find out that the salad has over 1,000 mg of sodium! But salads are healthy right? Why is it so high in sodium? Are there any lower sodium fast food options?


Sodium is used as a preservative for foods as well as to help enhance color and improve taste. Fast food hamburgers, chicken patties and salad dressings often have added sodium for these reasons. It is recommended for kidney patients to limit their sodium intake to less than 2,000 mg a day or the amount prescribed by their doctor. This helps to limit fluid weight gain and manage blood pressure.

Lower Sodium Fast Food Options

Sodium content of foods can vary, so it is best to find the nutrition facts information of the menu options. Restaurant chains are required to have nutritional information available upon request. It can also be found on their websites.

Back to the salad that you ordered. Why is it so high in sodium? Not all fast food salads will be over 1000 mg of sodium, but it all depends on what is in the salad, especially the protein and dressing.

Here are some high sodium salad examples from Subway:

Menu Item

Cold Cut Combo Salad

Steak & Cheese Salad

Chicken & Bacon Ranch Salad

Sodium Content (mg)




The Cold Cut Combo and the Steak & Cheese salads are high in sodium, and don’t even include a dressing, which will add more sodium. Whereas the Chicken & Bacon Ranch salad’s sodium content does include the ranch dressing. Processed meats and cheeses are high in sodium.

Some better salad options from Subway:

Menu Item

Tuna Salad

Oven Roasted Chicken Salad

Rotisserie-Style Chicken Salad

Sodium Content (mg)




These salads are lower in sodium.  This is due to the less processed protein source and because the salads don’t contain cheese. Salad dressing is not included in the sodium count. Make sure to look at the sodium contents of dressings before choosing one. Oil and red wine vinegar are great sodium-free dressing options. If you choose to use the packaged dressing provided you can still control sodium by using only a minimum amount. Try dipping your fork in the dressing and then getting a fork full of salad.

Other Fast Food Options

There are other fast food options besides salads that you can order and still follow your daily sodium goal. At Subway, you can get Tuna or Roasted Chicken on a 6-inch sub rather than a salad and still be under 700 mg sodium. If you go to McDonald’s, the oatmeal, hamburger or McChicken are good options.

Here are some higher sodium examples from McDonald’s:

Menu Item

Big Mac

Southwest Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Salad

Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Steak, Egg & Cheese Biscuit

Sodium Content (mg)





Some lower sodium options from McDonalds:

Menu Item

Fruit & Maple Oatmeal



Egg White Delight McMuffin

Sodium Content (mg)





It is important to find out how much sodium is in the food you order at a fast food restaurant. Ask for the nutrition information in person at the restaurant or look on their website. Know that dressings, cheese, and processed meats are going to increase the sodium content of meals. It is still possible to follow a kidney diet when you need a quick meal on the go.

Brand names have been included in this material for educational purposes only. DaVita does not endorse one brand over another. There are other brands in addition to these that could be equivalent.

Make Fast Foods at Home

Another option is to make your own homemade version of your favorite fast foods. Here are some DaVita recipes to get you started.


Lunch & Dinner: 

For more recipes read “Homemade Fast Foods for the Kidney Diet“.


This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Consult your physician and dietitian regarding your specific diagnosis, treatment, diet and health questions.

Sarah Alsing, MS, RD, CSR

Sarah Alsing, MS, RD, CSR

Sarah has been a dietitian since 2016 working in acute care, including transplant, and currently works in dialysis with in-center and peritoneal dialysis patients. She loves staying up-to-date on the latest nutrition research and discussing it with her patients. Sarah also has a passion for fitness and cooking healthy meals, as well as baking sweet treats for family and friends.