Beware the Salad

By Debbie Leonti

Sometimes the food choices we think are better for us end up being no better than the burger and fries we are avoiding.

It is time to go out to dinner with the family.  You get there and automatically stress that beach season is right around the corner.  What do you order?  You say, “I’ll have the salad!”  Although we are always preaching to get your greens in and emphasizing the importance of your fruits and vegetables,  the salad can take a pretty unhealthy turn if you are not careful when ordering.

Society today is always looking to take everything to the next level; we are always striving to be better.  When the better is actually worse, how do we respond?  We are firm believers that knowledge is the key to many things.  It is no different with nutrition; we need to learn and understand that not all things that are advertised or preached as healthy is actually better for us.  Let me explain!

You are going to Cheescake Factory and immediately shuffle through the menu to the salad section because it would be a terrible idea to get a burger and fries!  Have you ever looked at some of these decadent salads?  Let’s take a look at a classic Cobb salad.  While it has the vegetables and leafy greens we want, it is also topped with more bacon than we probably need, extra cheese to enhance the flavor, buttery croutons, and smothered in a creamy ranch dressing.  This takes your “healthy salad” to just about as many calories (if not more) than if you were to order a burger and fries!  Be aware that just because it seems like a better option, does not necessarily mean that it is.

With that being said, you don’t have to just opt for the greasiest meal on the menu since a salad can be just as “bad.”  Instead, begin to learn more about macronutrients and nutrition in different types of food.  If you are going to stick to a salad, here are some things to watch out for:

1. Creamy dressings: this can be a calorie killer.  Ask for a balsamic or olive oil and get it on the side so that you can control how much goes into it.

2.  Extra toppings:  restaurants will cover salads in cheese and fried foods.  Try to skip the cheese or pick some of it out as the portions are usually bigger than you need.

3.  Meat choices:  try to go for a leaner meat or fish.  Ask for the meat broiled or grilled.  Most restaurants are pretty accommodating to special requests.

4.  Overall portion:  If the salad comes out and looks like it can serve a family, ask for a separate plate or ask for a box to wrap up the rest of it.  We are inclined to eat more if it is in front of us.

If you want to have some healthier options, but don’t want a salad, you can still stay on track!  Here are a few quick tips when ordering:

1.  Ask for meats grilled or broiled.

2.  As for a side of vegetables or potato instead of fries.

3.  Go for a lettuce wrap for a burger instead of the bun.

4.  Use low calorie condiments like ketchup or mustard rather than creamier dressings.

5.  If you do want fries, ask someone else if you would like to share a side order OR wrap up the other half!

6.  Want an appetizer or dessert?  You should indulge, but pick ONE over the other rather than both.

I hope some of these tips help you guys out when you are heading out to a restaurant for a meal.  You don’t have to avoid the “bad” foods, just understand that there are alternatives to making it less of a hit on your calories for the day.  At the same time, please understand that just because you are getting a salad, this gives you bonus points to being “healthy.”  Balance is key and knowledge is power!

See you at the gym,