Healthy Salads

Salad for dinner

It’s no secret that I like to eat salads for lunch everyday. However, a salad is only as healthy and nutritious as the ingredients it contains. Many restaurant salads are NOT the best option on the menu. I subscribe to a daily newsletter written by Lisa Lillien a.k.a. Hungry Girl and she recently discussed some salad shockers:

Applebee’s Grilled Shrimp and Spinach salad sounds pretty healthy, right? Actually, it has 1,160 calories. Eek! On the other hand, the Applebee’s chili-lime chicken salad only has 250 calories and 6 grams of fat.

Chile’s Quesadilla Explosion salad contains 1,260 calories and 76 grams of fat. Yikes! Play it safe and order something from Chile’s Guiltless Grill menu.

Friendly’s Chicken Cesaer salad has over 1,000 calories and 84 grams of fat.  When a salad has more calories than an ice cream sundae, I think there is something a miss….

A plain salad isn’t much fun, but some of these salad dressings are ridiculous.  For 500 calories, I’d rather have dessert!

T.G.I. Friday’s
Balsamic Vinaigrette = 590 calories
Also Bad: House Vinaigrette, Honey Mustard, Ranch, and Bleu Cheese (330 – 490 calories).
Best Bet: Low-Fat Cilantro Lime (160 calories).

Cosi Vinaigrette = 357 calories and 39g fat
Also Bad: Pepperanch, Roasted Shallot Sherry Vinaigrette, Pesto Vinaigrette, Caesar, and Italian (246 – 340 calories and 26 – 40g fat).
Best Bet: Fat-Free Balsamic Vinaigrette (28 calories).

Honey Mustard = 500 calories and 48g fat
Also Bad: Buttermilk Ranch and Peppercorn Caesar (350 – 480 calories and 35 – 50g fat).
Best Bet: Fat-Free Balsamic Vinaigrette (120 calories).

Anyway, my point isn’t to be paranoid or to obsessively count calories. However, I think it’s important to know what and how much you’re eating. If you’re really craving a burger – maybe you should get it! It might even be healthier than the salad option. Read the nutritional information at restaurants, compare choices, and make informed decisions :-)

salad lunch

Some of my tips for creating healthy and nutrient packed salads:

  • If you ordering at a restaurant, ask for the dressing on the side. Dip your fork in the dressing before each bite rather than dumping it on top.
  • Ask the chef to go light on the cheese, nuts, and croutons.
  • If you’re making a salad at home or at a salad bar, make sure to fill your plate with lots of colorful veggies: spinach, romaine, mixed greens, mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, and carrots are all full of fiber, water, and nutrients.
  • Top your veggies with lean protein such as grilled chicken, tuna, tofu, beans, or hardboiled egg whites.
  • Add in some “fun extras” for flavor and crunch. I like dried fruit, slivered almonds, feta cheese, whole grain croutons, or a spoonful of pasta salad. Remember to add small portions of the fun stuff and BIG portions of veggies.
  • For extra staying power, try add cooked grains such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, or quinoa to your salad. Or use 1/4 cup high fiber cereal for some crunch!
  • Use a dressing with some healthy fat in it. An olive oil based vinaigrette will actually help your body absorb more nutrients from the vegetables!

Bon Appetit!


4 Responses

  1. Thanks so much for mentioning some of those salads! I get so frustrated with this issue because restaurants tout healthy options and so much of popular media says “have a salad, you’ll be healthy and lose weight!” when it’s just not the case. my parents live in the burbs and lived through so many diet fads and I can see them struggle with making healthy choices at the restaurants they enjoy. I’ve always loved Friday’s and Applebee’s and both are closed to my home so we used to eat there frequently. Who’d have thought a grilled shrimp salad could be so incredibly unhealthy. What’s a person to do!?

  2. Holy crap, over a 1000 calories for a friggin salad?! I might as well order fried chicken! Thanks for sharing these!

  3. WOW!!! I would have for sure gone for the spinach and shrimp one, but that is an insane amount of calories for a salad. I would rather get a fettucini alfredo for those calories!!

  4. I hate when restaurants/companies falsely advertise their products as being healthy. It’s really not fair for them to jeopardize people’s health because they want to make money. Things should not be allowed to be branded as healthy unless they actually are!

    Great post!

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