I well remember the days, er, years when I would automatically order a great big salad every time I went out to dinner. And I was always so proud of myself. Until . . . the public demanded that restaurants share the nutritional value of their meals. I have a love/hate relationship with Eat This/Not That. Ignorance is tastefully bliss . . . or is it?
The day I realized that I could have been dining on a big, juicy cheeseburger (back in the day) and crispy, ketchup drenched fries for fewer calories than that gigantic salad, I was flabbergasted. How can that be? Lettuce is practically minus zero calories. It’s one of those foods that people swear on their grandpa’s grave that you use more calories chewing than the actual calorie count in those tasty, green leaves.
Most dinner sized, dressed salads in restaurants have anywhere from 700 to 2,000 calories, not to mention the high fat and sodium. What’s a salad loving girl to do? How can we make healthier choices?
We all know it’s not about the lettuce, right?[Tweet “Is your salad dressed to kill?”]
1. Skip the fried chicken strips on top of that salad and choose grilled instead.
Hey, I’m southern. I get it. We grew up on all things fried. Southerners will fry anything from green tomatoes to onions to rabbits (yuck – that’s my husband’s side of the family). Fried is OK occasionally, but not a good lifestyle choice.
2. Ditch the overload of croutons, cheese & bacon.
I know there’s been a trendy bacon craze for years. Don’t faint, but I don’t eat pork. I’ve never really cared for it. Actually, I don’t eat meat at all these days (that’s another story for another day that I keep promising to tell).
Helpful Hint: If you can’t bear to do away with the cheese, bacon and croutons entirely, kindly ask your waiter to put them on the side.
3. Pile on the veggies.
I’m really loving hot veggie salads right now. I’ll make a huge salad with assorted greens and add steamed or roasted veggies. Most of the time I don’t even need to add extra calories from salad dressing. It’s delicious as is!
Restaurants have picked up on this theme, too. My favorite hot veggie salad when dining out is at California Dreaming (354 calories). I never add salad dressing. It just doesn’t need it.
If I’m not eating a hot veggie salad, I add fruit and nuts. I always measure the nuts because I have a tendency to go overboard.
4. Always, always ask for salad dressing on the side.
The creamier the salad, the better it tastes – oops – I meant to say the more calories it probably has. Some salad dressings have 200 calories and 20 grams of fat per serving. A serving is usually 2 tablespoons. Many people eat twice (or more) than that.
I’m not a fan of most low-calorie dressings (especially ranch). Light dressings save on calories and fat, but they often make up for it in the sodium and sugar content.
Choose dressings with the shortest list of recognizable ingredients, and preferably an oil-based vinaigrette.
Here’s the salad that I eat almost daily during the spring and summer. I use the one low-calorie dressing that I actually like.
It’s heart health month and I’m doing my part to keep my heart healthy.
What’s your favorite healthy salad?