Sodium and the Restaurant Consumer: Associations with Dining Out Frequency and Menu Nutrition Information

Karen Byrd, Purdue University


Excessive dietary sodium intake has been deemed a public health problem in the United States. Restaurant foods are a significant source of dietary sodium, accounting for approximately one-third of the total daily sodium intake among U.S. adults. Thus, it is important to understand how restaurant consumer decisions may be influenced by adding sodium information to restaurant menus and how consumers’ goals to reduce their dietary sodium intake may influence how frequently they dine out and the likelihood of using menu nutrition information (MNI). This dissertation examined the relationships among consumers’ reported actions to decrease sodium intake with dining out frequency and the use of MNI; and the effect of sodium menu nutrition information on consumer purchasing intentions. The first study showed that reported dining out frequency was significantly lower by approximately one meal per week for consumers who reported they were decreasing their sodium intake compared to those who were not. When separated by restaurant type, the relationship was significant for fast food/pizza restaurants but not other foodservice operations. Additionally, consumers reporting actions to decrease their sodium intake were more likely to: see MNI, use it if it were seen, or use it if it were provided, as compared to consumers not trying to decrease their sodium intake. The second study showed that calories plus numeric sodium information on restaurant menus was associated with restaurant consumers choosing meals lower in sodium, compared to meals chosen from menus with no MNI or with calorie information only. However, this only held true for individuals with a taste intuition that (relatively) lower sodium, lower calorie, healthy foods are tasty. The opposite taste intuition resulted in consumers ordering meals higher in sodium. The calorie content of the meals consumers selected also did not vary significantly based on MNI. However, it did vary by taste intuition such that lower calorie meals were ordered by individuals with a belief that (relatively) lower sodium, lower calorie, healthy foods are tasty compared to individuals with the opposite taste intuition.




Almanza, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Nutrition|Public health|Public policy

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