Friday, April 5, 2013

The Truth About Salads

If you are anything like me, salads are a large part of your meal plan just about everyday. I’m not talking about just eating raw spinach leaves either. I’m talking a meal-sized, flavorful and filling bowl of salad.

Salads have become quite the hot topic these days. So many restaurants and processed food producers are making it a point to provide “healthy versions” of their meals, like salads, and often times they completely miss the mark. The victim in all this? Us. There are a number of articles out there which basically explain that unless you make your own salads at home with a sprinkle of lemon juice, it is best to stay away from them completely… Or atleast that is how I took it. :)  But, let’s not get dramatic. Here are a couple of important tips I recommend in choosing to go the salad route when eating out.

Portion Control

First things first. Many restaurants have an extensive, mouth-watering list of meal-sized salads that they offer.  You will see anything from Asian Chopped to BBQ Chicken Taco salads. They sound delicious, but wait until you hear what they weigh in at when consuming the whole thing. A salad like the full-sized Moroccan Spiced Chicken from one of my personal favorites, California Pizza Kitchen, weighs in at a whopping 1,370 calories.


Yum. Ok, never mind what’s in it, the portion that they provide you is two; sometimes three times the size of what you should consume in an average sitting. As a general rule of thumb, when ordering meal-sized salads, I would recommend immediately removing half of it from the plate, before dressing or eating it, and box it up. Hey, another meal for later or a great excuse to share with a friend.


Salad dressings have earned a bad reputation with the health-conscious world we live in. It is discouraging that something that is considered a diet-worthy meal, like salad, can quickly become worse than a whopper because of its’ best attribute, the dressing. The amount of calories in dressing depends on how much oil and sugar is added when they are made; and when dining out, there is almost no telling how much of either there is.

Have no fear. A super simple alternative is asking for just some good ol’ oil and vinegar. Or if you are in the mood to get really crazy, even just some red wine vinegar tastes delicious, depending on the contents of the salad. Another thing to think about too is if you get a topping like chicken or shrimp which already has its own juices, even just a side of lemon could be a great compliment to the flavors that are already there.

If the salad just “can’t” go without the dressing in your opinion, only use one to two tablespoons with your entire salad. Be sure to remind yourself that many restaurant dressings contain upwards of 88 calories per tablespoon.  That can end up taking up over half of the calories you should be consuming for that onemeal!


Everyone loves the thought of a “parmesan encrusted”, “panko crusted” something or other. Anything crusted is downright delicious, but something to be wary of.  Unfortunately when you see the word “crusted” you must make yourself assume it’s been lathered in cheese and gotten the frying treatment.
This is where I take a different stance than most salad articles out there though. I don’t think this is necessarily something to stay away from, but maybe tweak if possible. I would first ask if it is baked rather than fried. If not, then I would opt to get the chicken or salmon grilled. But to be honest, if you are only eating half anyways, go for it once in a while.

I think this topic is really important to have knowledge on if you are someone who eats salads on the regular. If you are like me, I don’t even just eat them for the nutritional value but because I love them, a lot. Making smart choices when it comes to dishes like these can make the world of difference if you add it all up over time.

What are some of your rules of thumbs when choosing to go the salad route? Please share!

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