Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Surviving the Salad Bar

Generally, it is fairly easy to get a healthy meal at a salad bar, but at the same time, it can be difficult to know what to take and what to avoid to keep your salad guilt free, yet still satisfying. Here are a few quick tips to help you craft the perfect, healthy salad.

1. Let there be Lettuce: Just about any lettuce you choose is a great bet- even iceberg, which is mostly water is acceptable; however, the greener the leaf, the more nutritious it is (as a general rule- not entirely true). Feel free to mix and match the mesculin, spinach, romaine, etc!

2. Veggies? Load 'em on!: Just about any raw veggie is a great option-carrots, celery, tomatoes, cabbage, sprouts, mushrooms, onions, peppers, etc.- as long as they are raw and sauceless, you are good to go? Some veggies to approach with caution are avocado, corn, or any other starchy, fatty, or caloric choice that may add the calories on more than you'd like. If you're feelin' frisky, some salad bars even have fresh fruit to put on your salad! I've always been a huge fan of strawberries in salad, or maybe even some sliced oranges! Just a disclaimer, watch out for the dried fruit options. These often have added sugars, and those calories can add up fast!

3. Pick the right protein: My personal favorite protein option is egg whites- they are usually hard boiled, so it is safe to assume they weren't cooked in any oil or butter. If egg whites aren't an option, ask how the grilled chicken or grilled shrimp was prepared. Avoid anything that looks very greasy or is sitting in a sauce- chances are, the sauce is not healthy. Another great option for protein is plain tuna (not the tuna spread mixed with mayo) or some fresh kidney/black beans or chick peas- just don't overdo it! Another great source of protein is nuts and seeds, but use very sparingly because those calories add up fast. If you want the flavor of nuts without all the calories, see if they have slivered almonds or something along those lines! Generally, I would avoid the cheese choices, as they are often full fat, but if you can afford the extra calories, then let there be cheese!

4. Avoid at all costs: Any pasta salads, macaroni salads, tuna salad,  or any pre-prepared add-on that is clearly made with oil, mayo, or a fattening dressing. Also, any fried wontons or crunchy, carby topper that is bound to pack the unnecessary calories onto your salad. Skip them. If it's the crunch you crave, add some extra celery!

5. Dress to impress: No, not your clothing- your salad dressing! As a general rule, dressing is a calorie catastrophe. Stick to plain balsamic vinegar (or any other vinegar they may have) or squeeze some lemon on top. If you must indulge on the dressing (we all have those cravings!) use sparingly and don't just dump the whole container on there. You can dip as you go, or use my favorite fork trick- dip the tip of your fork into the dressing before taking a bite of salad. This way, you still get the flavor of the dressing without all the unnecessary calories. If you're feelin' frisky, you can even pack your own dressing. My besties at Walden Farms make single serve packets of some of their dressings that you can take on the go! If you're one to do things unconventionally, some fresh salsa is also a great pick- or if you've loaded up your salad enough, who even needs the dressing?!

Hopefully, these quick tips will help you form a healthy salad, but if you feel I've missed something, let me know!

P.S.- If you have a Charlie Brown's near you, they often have a pretty rockin' salad bar! You can even get the salad bar as your entree, or split a dish with a friend and have the other order the salad bar and share! Pin It

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