We made it through the holidays, and “eating season” is officially over. For many of us, it’s “out with the bad and in with the good” habits time.
Many of us will opt out of what we know will be a fattening meal choice, and select what we think will be more virtuous; a salad!
Inspired by David Zincenko’s “Eat This, Not That” blog post, I researched some salads at popular chain restaurants, with shocking results.
Cosi’s Signature Salad, features red grapes, pears, pistachio nuts, dried cranberries, Gorgonzola cheese, and sherry shallot vinaigrette. It comes with warm baked- on- the premises flatbread.
It also features 825 calories, and 67% of your daily fat intake.
Opt for the lighter version, which has a low fat dressing and ½ the cheese and is only 371 calories. Leave the flatbread at the counter to avoid temptation and another 214 calories.
California Pizza Kitchen has some of the highest calorie items around. How could a seemingly benign Field Greens Salad pack 998 calories? And that is without the addition of Gorgonzola cheese, shrimp, or salmon! There must be something in the dressing, because the greens and pears don’t add up. The candied walnuts are a bit of a clue, but you would need quite a few to get that number. Not the best choice, since it lacks protein, other than the sugar coated nuts.
Look into a half portion of the Classic Caesar with Shrimp for 372 calories, or the half order of Chinese Chicken Salad, for 376 calories.
Going to a made to order salad bar? Avoid the fat traps and make a healthy, filling and delicious salad.
Pile on the greens and any vegetables that are not grilled, marinated or otherwise swimming in oil. That includes tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, roasted beets, asparagus, green beans and many others. Avocado is a great source of healthy fat; but beware that each one contains over 300 calories. A cup of lettuce is only 8 calories!
Add some protein. Egg whites at 17 calories each are a great choice, as is plain chicken breast (100 calories), or steamed shrimp (5 each). Anything breaded or drenched in oil is to be avoided. Beans, such as chickpeas, kidney or cannellini beans are also great sources of protein for about 100 calories per ½ cup. The addition of protein will help you feel full longer, keep your blood sugar in check, and help you build muscle if you are working out.
Nuts are high in protein and very good for you, but also pack about 170 calories per handful. Eat them judiciously.
Go easy on the cheese. The sprinkling of blue cheese adds about 119 calories to the equation. Bacon bits are a huge fat and calorie trap at about 145 calories per serving, and sugar packed items such as dried fruit and candied nuts are also bad choices, adding 100 and 260 calories respectively. A crouton is only about 6 calories each, but really, who eats one crouton?
If the dressing is thick and creamy, pass it by.
Opt for a little vinaigrette, or a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice. Start making your own dressing, with only one tablespoon of olive oil, to 2 or 3 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice. A little Dijon mustard adds zing. Olive oil packs about 120 calories per tablespoon, so use it sparingly.
Remember, that the freshest, best quality ingredients need very little to enhance their flavor. Step away from the box, and enjoy more produce and non-processed foods. Your waistline (and your digestive system) will thank you for it.
photo: Glasshouse Images