Graham Beaton BHSc, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

As people travel for summer holidays, they often find themselves eating out more than when at home. This can be a challenge for many who are on restricted diets (e.g. gluten free diets), for those who are trying to manage a specific condition (e.g. high cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, etc.) or for people who are trying to lose weight.

As people become familiar with the nutritional information detailed on labels of specific products, or on the menus at specific restaurant chains (e.g. Subway), they tend to make consistent choices. For example, they order the sandwich from the same restaurant chain that they ‘know’ is low in salt. But, is it ok to rely on one’s knowledge of brands when traveling outside of Canada (i.e. is it a given that a food has the same nutritional content across geographical areas?) To answer this question, Dunford et al. (2012) looked at the reported levels of salt in fast foods in six different countries (Canada, Australia, France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States).

The researchers found that there was great variability in the salt content of specific products in different countries. For example, Chicken McNuggets had 2.5 times more salt in McDonald’s restaurants in the United States as compared to those in the United Kingdom.

While researchers did not look at other nutritional information (i.e. calories, total fat, saturated, unsaturated and trans fat, etc.), it is possible that quantities of other nutrients also vary across and between countries. These variations can be explained by health initiatives that are put in place on a national, regional or city wide level (e.g., both the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency and the New York City Health Department have put forth initiatives to reduce salt).

Thus, what should you do? Remember to continue to check nutrition labels while traveling, even if it is a product that you normally consume as part of your healthy diet.

In my practice, I spend time with patients counselling them on nutrition and on how to properly read food labels.

I am a Naturopath in downtown Ottawa. For more information on food label reading, nutrition, high cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, weight loss, Naturopathic Medicine, or to book an appointment, please call 613-290-6115.