The Salad Myth

26 Dec

Thank you all for putting up with my absence this week. Moving a week before Christmas was definitely a bit of a challenge to put it mildly. I’m almost completely unpacked, so my posts should be more regular now.

We are a week away from New Years and the resolutions that accompany this holiday. The biggest resolution made is the vow to lose weight. One of the most common ways people start to cut calories, especially when eating out, is by ordering a salad. I’m here to say: not so fast.

In general, a salad is a really healthy option for people and a great way to get in a few servings of veggies every day. I eat a salad with dinner every night. I eat it first so it fills me up, and I tend to not eat as much then of the main meal. However, that being said, making a salad at home is one thing and ordering one out at a restaurant is another.

Ordering a salad at a restaurant as a healthy option is many times a myth. It is very common that the salad has just as many if not more calories and fat than many entrees offered. For example, at McDonald’s, a double cheeseburger contains 440 calories and 23 grams of fat. The Premium Southwest Crispy Chicken Salad contains 430 calories and 20 grams of fat—this is without salad dressing (source: http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/nutritionexchange/nutritionfacts.pdf). At Chili’s, a Boneless Buffalo Chicken Salad contains a whopping 1010 calories and 68 grams of fat compared to their Chili’s Classic Sirloin which has the same calories and 58 grams of fat (source: http://www.chilis.com/EN/Nutritional%20Information/Chilis_Nutrition_Menu_Generic.pdf).

What is one to do? In regards to salads, look at the ingredients in each salad. Things that stand out as high in fat/calories, ask to eliminate or substitute with something healthier. For example, if the salad comes with crispy chicken, ask for grilled. Get the salad without cheese, croutons and bacon (I know, I know, I’m not fun!). Ask for dressing on the side and dip your bites into it instead of pouring it all over. If there are low cal dressings available, go for it. However, I must admit I hate low fat dressings. The way I compromise with myself is I get the full fat dressing, but I measure out exactly one tablespoon and make it last over the whole salad.

When eating out, look up the restaurant’s nutrition information before you go. Study your different menu options and the calories of each item. Know what you’re going to order before you go.

At home, you know what you’re putting in your salads. Load up on filling, vitamin rich veggies like Romaine lettuce, spinach, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes. If you’re a fan of lower calorie dressings like balsamic vinegar and Italian, go for it. If you’re like me and addicted to all things creamy and Ranch style, limit yourself to the one tablespoon. This way you’re not deprived, but you’re not loading up on hundreds of extra calories.

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