I’m not a sadist but I do find it disturbingly fun to watch people making their own salads under the assumption that they’re making a healthy choice, only to cover the undeserving bed of lettuce with fatty, calorie-laden toppings.
Before you realize that I’m a terrible person and close your browser, let me make up for it by giving you my tips on how to stay slender while you’re out on the town at a build-your-own salad bar.
Ok, it’s pretty hard to go wrong here, but I’ll tell you this much: iceberg is the barren wasteland of the lettuce world. You’re not going to get fat from choosing iceberg over romaine or baby spinach, but you will be missing out on some vitamins, minerals, and other disease-preventing compounds. Laaaame.
I basically go buck wild on the raw, non-starchy veggie toppings when I’m making my own salad. They’re low calorie, full of nutrients, I like the way they taste, and I love not having to wash and chop them myself. An easy tip is to get as many different colors going on in your salad as possible. The different colors are indicative of different nutrients. Eat the rainbow or whatever. When it comes to starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes, beans, squash, etc.), I’ll usually pick one or two and have a total of about 1/2 cup.
Lately I’ve been adding avocado whenever I can, aiming for about 1/4 of a small fruit (yeah, I know, this is supposed to be the vegetable section). This is about 40-80 calories, but it’s packed with healthy fats that I know my body needs. Now, guacamole that looks like neon green paste? That I’ll pass on.
I stick with what I know when I get to the protein. This means grilled chicken, turkey breast, hardboiled eggs, black beans, baked salmon, or tuna. Anything breaded, fried, or mysteriously marinaded is likely to pack in more calories than you realize. I try and eyeball a 3 ounce serving, which is about the area/thickness of the palm of your hand.
I have very firm thoughts on cheese as a component of salads, sandwiches, wraps, et cetera. If I can’t taste it, then why have it there at all? A serving size of cheese is 1 ounce (usually a slice, or the size of your thumb if it’s a block cheese), so I go for the strong cheeses that’ll deliver flavor in that small of a portion. This usually means a spoonful of goat cheese or a sprinkle of feta. Cheapy cheddar cheese shreds just don’t do anything for me.
Other sneaky extras you might want to be aware of are dried fruit, nuts, seeds, croutons, and wonton strips. How come? Here:
1/4 cup of dried cranberries = 100 calories
1/4 cup of peanuts = 210 calories
1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds = 50 calories
1/2 cup of croutons = 90 calories
1/2 cup of wonton strips = 115 calories
If I’ve been “good” with my salad (no nuts, cheese, mostly lean protein and vegetables), then I’ll have 1-2 tablespoons of whatever dressing looks best to me on the side. I’ll then dip my fork in my dressing first and stab around my bowl for the goods. You’ll be surprised by how much less dressing you end up needing that way as opposed to pouring or dipping.
If I’ve decided to amp up my salad with more delicious toppings, I’ll opt for a splash of plain balsamic vinegar or soy sauce (something I picked up in Spain…weird…but try it). Nothing wrong with an essentially 0 calorie dressing.
Did I miss something you always scoop into in your salad bowl? Want to see another restaurant or type of cuisine featured in the Out On The Town series? Leave a comment!
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