These 10 Meals Reveal One Thing Fast Food Restaurants Still Get Wrong

The average chain restaurant is cutting back on sodium -- very. slowly.

According to a new report from the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the most prominent national chains slashed sodium by just six percent from 2009 to 2013, which amounts to about 1.5 percent per year.

Among the 136 meals from 17 popular chain restaurants reviewed by the CSPI, McDonald's, Burger King and Subway made the most drastic cuts. The Subway sandwich chain reduced sodium by nearly a third overall and had made reductions in all of the 10 meals the CSPI reviewed. For example, in 2009, a 12-inch ham sandwich with a bag of chips and a Diet Coke would set back a Subway diner 2,730 milligrams of sodium, but the same meal reviewed in 2013 contained 1,895 milligrams.

Even the reduced salt content of a single Subway sandwich is well over the 1,500 daily milligrams of sodium recommended by the CDC for at least half of the U.S. population -- including anyone who has high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease, is over age 51 or is African American. The rest of the population should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium in a day.

In fact, 79 percent of the 81 adult meals CSPI surveyed contained more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium, and some restaurants even increased their use of the salty stuff. KFC and Jack in the Box were the worst offenders, according to the report, raising the average sodium content by 12.4 percent and 7.2 percent, respectively.

"Some companies are clearly making an effort, but we won’t see sustained progress by all companies unless they know that their competitors will be lowering sodium also," CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said in a statement.

Per the Affordable Care Act, national chain restaurants like the ones sampled here are now required to list calories on in-store menus and to provide full nutrition information at the request of customers and on company websites. So while concerned consumers can certainly keep an eye on their sodium counts, to do so requires a bit of extra sleuthing. As a shortcut to sussing out the worst offenders, the CSPI compiled 10 of the saltiest meals sampled -- a list to certainly stay away from. Below are 10 common combinations of entrees, sides and drinks at restaurants near you that contain surprisingly high sodium counts, according to the CSPI's full report.

Olive Garden Spaghetti & Italian Sausage
Spaghetti & Italian Sausage: 3,090 milligrams
Garden Fresh Salad with House Dressing: 760 milligrams
Sprite: 20 milligrams

Total Sodium: 3,870 milligrams
Red Lobster Shrimp Scampi
Shrimp Scampi: 990 milligrams
Coconut Shrimp Bites: 760 milligrams
Fried Shrimp: 860 milligrams
Coleslaw: 250 milligrams
Fries: 740 milligrams
Cheddar Bay Biscuit: 350 milligrams
Minute Maid Light Lemonade: 90 milligrams

Total Sodium: 4,040 milligrams
Olive Garden Chicken & Shrimp Carbonara
Chicken & Shrimp Carbonara: 3,000 milligrams
Zuppa Toscana: 960 milligrams
Breadstick: 370 milligrams
Dr Pepper: 35 milligrams

Total Sodium: 4,365 milligrams
Arby's Beef 'n Cheddar Mid
Justin Sullivan via Getty Images
Beef 'n Cheddar Mid: 1,760 milligrams
Large Mozzarella Sticks with Marinara Sauce: 2,670 milligrams
Large Dr Pepper: 81 milligrams

Total Sodium: 4,511 milligrams
Olive Garden Chicken Parmigiana
Chicken Parmigiana: 3,380 milligrams
Garden Fresh Salad with House Dressing: 760 milligrams
Breadstick: 370 milligrams
Raspberry Lemonade: 15 milligrams

Total Sodium: 4,525 milligrams
Red Lobster Fried Oysters
Fried Oysters: 1,100 milligrams
Fried Crawfish: 1,480 milligrams
Garlic Shrimp Scampi: 960 milligrams
Caesar Salad: 560 milligrams
Cheddar Bay Biscuit: 350 milligrams
Sprite: 80 milligrams

Total Sodium: 4,530 milligrams
Olive Garden Tour of Italy Lasagna
Tour of Italy Lasagna: 3,830 milligrams
Garden Fresh Salad with House Dressing: 760 milligrams
Breadstick: 370 milligrams
Coca-Cola: 5 milligrams

Total Sodium: 4,965 milligrams
Red Lobster North Pacific King Crab Legs
North Pacific King Crab Legs: 4,070 milligrams
Garden Salad with French Dressing: 550 milligrams
Baked Potato with Butter & Sour Cream: 400 milligrams
Cheddar Bay Biscuit: 350 milligrams
Coca-Cola: 60 milligrams

Total Sodium: 5,430 milligrams
Chili's Crispy Honey-Chipotle Chicken Crispers
Crispy Honey-Chipotle Chicken Crispers with Ranch: 4,100 milligrams
Steamed Broccoli: 450 milligrams
Loaded Mashed Potatoes: 810 milligrams
Dr Pepper: 70 milligrams

Total Sodium: 5,430 milligrams
Red Lobster Admiral's Feast
Admiral's Feast: 3,830 milligrams
Caesar Salad: 560 milligrams
Creamy Lobster Topped Mashed Potato: 1,000 milligrams
Cheddar Bay Biscuit: 350 milligrams
Minute Maid Light Lemonade: 90 milligrams

Total Sodium: 5,830 milligrams

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