Restaurant meals are often high in both calories and sodium. It can be hard to make a healthy choice because nutrition information is not readily available in most restaurants.

Calories

The average sit-down restaurant meal has more than half the calories you need in a whole day.

Calories are a measure of energy in food. Most adults need about 2000 calories a day but the exact number of calories you need depends on your age, gender, body size and activity level. Eating more calories than your body needs can lead to weight gain.

Knowing how many calories you need and how many calories are in your food can help you to make healthy choices.

Sodium

The average sit-down restaurant meal has 1.5 times the sodium you need in a whole day.

Sodium is an essential nutrient found in salt and many foods. It is added to food to enhance taste and act as a preservative. Our bodies need a small amount of sodium to be healthy, but too much can lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure puts you at risk for a stroke, heart disease and kidney disease.

Most adults should aim for 1500 milligrams of sodium a day. Eating more than 2300 mg of sodium per day can cause health problems.

Daily sodium levels by age group:

Age Aim for this amount Have no more than this amount
1-3 years 1000 mg  1500 mg
4-8 years 1200 mg  1900 mg
9-13 years 1500 mg  2200 mg
14-50 years 1500 mg  2300 mg
51-70 years 1300 mg
71 years and older 1200 mg