Food Is Not Your Enemy


Chicken Wings Are Not Salad: How to Choose a Healthy Lunch From the Salad Bar
July 27, 2010, 2:14 pm
Filed under: Oils, Restaurants, Vegetables | Tags: ,

I’m going to eat healthy today, you think. I’m going to the salad bar place on the corner to get my lunch. No more junk.

New York is filled with salad bars, some better than others. But what they all seem to have in common, whether they occupy the local bodega or the center of your company’s cafeteria, is that they’re often stocked full of foods that are decidedly non-salad in nature.

I’ll never forget when corner-store salad bars first hit the city in a big way. An overweight friend of mine had suggested we grab a healthy dinner and try the new salad bar near her apartment. After oohing and aahing over all the choices on display, what she ended up with in her plastic container was fried chicken and potato salad. Healthy dinner? Not so much.

To ensure that when you walk away from your favorite salad bar you actually have a healthy meal in your hands, follow these “do’s and don’ts” when selecting your ingredients …

Do:

Do choose the darker greens. Unlike iceberg lettuce, which offers little in the way of nutrition, mesclun, romaine, and spinach are nutritional powerhouses, loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Do pile on the veggies. Top your salad with a ton of veggies–broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, artichoke hearts, avocado, red onions, mushrooms, and shredded carrots are all great choices.

Do include a protein. No matter how big your salad, if it has nothing more than lettuce and veggies in it you’ll be hungry soon after eating it. To make your healthy salad also a filling, satisfying meal, throw in any combination of salmon, shrimp, grilled chicken, beans, tofu, nuts, or seeds.

Do use the right dressings. The best way to go is olive oil and vinegar or olive oil and lemon juice. After that, vinaigrettes are okay.

Don’t:

Don’t select “salads” made with mayonnaise. Mayo is very calorie-dense, and the stuff coated in it is often starchy or refined foods (potatoes, white macaroni, etc.) that your waistline and blood sugar levels can do without.

Don’t load up on creamy dressings. Like mayo, creamy dressings like ranch, bleu cheese, and thousand island are very caloric. What looks like a healthy salad can suddenly become a calorie bomb if it’s coated in even just a few tablespoons of these dressings.

Don’t eat the crispy toppings. Crispy Asian noodles, croutons, and other fried bits of white flour will do nothing for you nutritionally and just add a lot of calories.

Don’t take chicken that’s fried or coated in a sloppy sauce. Barbecue and fried wings aren’t really why you headed to the salad bar, right? You wanted to eat healthy. If this is the stuff you meant to eat you would’ve gone to Popeye’s.

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