More and more restaurants and fast food joints are carrying a variety of salads.
That's a good thing, right? Well, it can be, but don't make a quick ruling on that. It's true that vegetables are the lowest-calorie food group; the problem is that many salads aren't just composed of vegetables.
Because not all salads are made the same, it takes some work by the consumer to figure out which restaurant salads are healthy choices. Let's compare the fat and calories in a few salads made by popular food outlets.
Taco Bell's Fiesta Salad® — 840 calories and 45 grams of fat
Macaroni Grill's Chicken Caesar Salad® — 920 calories and 69 grams of fat
Panera's Bistro Steak Salad® — 630 calories and 58 grams of fat
Applebee's Grilled Steak Caesar Salad® — 1,190 calories and 75 grams of fat
Compare the salads above to the infamous McDonald's Big Mac®, which has 540 calories and 29 grams of fat.
And keep in mind that four cups of salad mix — with no added meats, croutons, sliced eggs, dressings, and so on — have only 100 calories and no fat.
Salads don't need to get a bad reputation, though. It's all the extras that get added to salads nowadays that pack on the calories and fat. Use these tips for selecting a healthier salad.
Order salad dressing on the side. And before spearing a bite of your salad, each time dip the tines of your fork into the dressing. You will taste dressing with each bite but you'll only be using a small amount.
Try a light or low-fat salad dressing or dilute the dressing with vinegar or lemon juice. This will help to reduce the calories.
Stay away from all things fried. Salads now come with fried meats. Ask that these be baked, grilled, or broiled.
Keep the toppings to a minimum. Croutons, cheese, fried wontons and noodles, eggs, olives, and nuts all add up in calories. Ask that these be replaced with extra vegetables.
Bottom line: Tailor-make your salad just for you, and it can be a healthy meal.