Creating the Perfect Salad

Dining out….we love and we hate it, especially if we’re trying to follow a particular eating regimen. So many of my clients get apprehensive when it comes to eating out, especially if they’re going to an establishment that doesn’t explicitly list the nutrition content on the menu or website. Are you the same way? In some cases, we may feel like the only way we can eat healthy at a restaurant is if we order a salad; speaking from past experience, I’ve been in this boat as well.

Sometimes when we order a salad, one of two things can happen:

1) Scenario one… we get a salad for the sake of the word “salad” being in the title and it’s basically a plate/bowl of fried chicken tenders, shredded yellow processed cheese, 1 cup of croutons and about 1/2 gallon of ranch dressing…maybe something similar to the picture below.


This salad has some great components but having a lot of dressing (not necessarily as seen in this picture) or a whopping deep fried chicken breast can provide excessive saturated fat, sodium, and calories to your meal.

2) Scenario two…you order an iceberg or romaine lettuce salad with barely anything on it but a tasteless piece of grilled chicken and a virtually calorie free vinaigrette, maybe something similar to this:


Sure this is low in calorie but you’ll find yourself getting hungry sooner than later without the necessary fat that you need and adequate carbohydrate to provide energy.

Now don’t get me wrong, salads are wonderful awesome meals that can house the components we need for a healthy meal (carb, protein, and fat) but often times we order on two extremes of the restaurant salad spectrum. Components to a meal worthy salad include the following:

1) Great lettuce– romaine and iceberg are fine and dandy but are primarily water and don’t house many vitamins or minerals. Instead, go for dark green/colorful lettuces such as spinach or a baby spring mix

2) A variety of veggies– adding things like carrots, mushrooms, bell peppers, tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, etc., can really enhance the textures and flavors in your salad while also providing a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals….without adding excess calories

3) Carbohydrate– most of the time when people think of carbohydrates, they only think of the starchy things like breads, rice, pasta, etc. Luckily, fruit and dairy products such as dried/fresh fruits and milk/yogurt can provide carbohydrate in a meal which the body uses as it’s preferred fuel source. If you’re not a fruit in your salad kind of person or you’re not a crouton kind of person either, having a serving of bread on the side or a baked potato with minimal heart-healthy margarine and low fat/fat free sour cream can provide some good carbohydrate.

4) Have protein– protein in your salad is so important as the protein along with fat help bring satiety to your meal and keep you full for a longer amount of time because protein and fat take longer to digest than carbohydrate. Protein on a salad could be grilled chicken, boiled egg, nuts/seeds, cheese (think outside of just regular shredded yellow cheese for more variety), beans, tofu, etc.

5) Get your fat– as with protein, fat will bring the satiety to the salad that your body needs. Fat can come from the salad dressing that you use (try to use vinaigrette based things vs. cream based dressings most of the time) and even the protein components that you add such as nuts/seeds, cheese, etc.


Can we say yummy?!
This is courtesy of Spaghettofu!

Now, I do want to say that these suggestions primarily apply if you’re having a salad as your main entree. If you’re doing a side salad for sake of primarily getting in your veggies servings during the day, then feel free to have your carbohydrate/protein/fat components within your main dish 🙂

Curious about some of the worst salads to have at a restaurant….check out this article from Men’s Health!

Soon I’ll be posting some helpful tips on ordering out in general — stay tuned! Yes it’s possible to eat healthy without having to get a salad 🙂

Alabama Obesity Task Force

Hi friends! I apologize it’s been a week or so since my last post; life has been happening (my mom graduated from college after being primarily in the workforce for the past 20 years- yay! and it was 80’s day at work yesterday— see corresponding pictures 🙂 )  which has provided so much to write about but not enough time to actually be able to write! But today, I’d like to finally share an update, which majorly includes my involvement with the Alabama Obesity Task Force.


So proud of my mom! Pictured from left to right: my dad, my mom, my little brother, me, and my husband (who is significantly taller than the rest of my family…might I add I’m wearing heels)

80's day at husband said I look like an extra from Saved by the Bell/I need to audition for Hot Sundae.
80’s day at work…my husband said I look like an extra from Saved by the Bell/I need to audition for Hot Sundae.

On an exciting note, this past Tuesday I was inducted as chair of the Alabama Obesity Task Force. This is something I’ve been involved with as a dietitian since 2010. After serving as a general member, I’ve spent the past 2 years as chair/co-chair of our Student Engagement committee which strives to utilize college students as a resource to support and execute programs and political bills that encourage a healthier lifestyle for Alabamamians. On Tuesday however, I was honored and humble to be inducted as overall chair for our task force to serve the 2013-2014 term.

Since being involved with this group, many of my family and colleagues have been asking what exactly the task force is and how it came about. The establishment of this entity pre-dates me but was formed as part of a grant application to the CDC for Alabama to get funding for obesity prevention efforts.  In terms of  the mission of the task force, it strives to provide goals and objectives at various social-ecological levels including:

  • Education and Awareness
  • Lifestyle and Behavioral Choices
  • Community-based Environmental Strategies
  • School and Website Improvements
  • Policy Development or Changes

This has been an exciting time to be part of the task force especially since our committees have recently cranked out a worksite wellness guide for businesses to use and in October we will be holding a health summit inviting the community and school officials to learn about ways to partner to reduce obesity which will also include updates on recent research linking the positive effects of eating and exercise on brain function in school children 🙂

Though we have over 200 members in the organization, my goals this year include increasing our membership and the types of entities that are represented. Many of those on our task force represent school systems, local YMCA’s, health insurance officials, pharmacists, nurses, state health officials, and dietitians such as myself. Below is a picture of me and Michael Jackson (great name!) during the meeting Tuesday as he passed the torch of chair to me after serving his 2012-2013 term.

IMG_0863 (5)

Okay, these are my updates for now- I promise I’ll be posting some new things soon! In the meantime however, please check out my good friend Cindy’s site, Newlywed Nutrition, where I guest posted this week on the topic of Confessions of a NOT SO Susie Homemaker 🙂  🙂sheena homemaker1

A Filipino Foodie Meets Dr. Gourmet

One aspect that I really love about my job is getting to meet other people passionate about health, especially when it comes to nutrition. This week, myself and two of my other dietitian colleagues got to meet with Dr. Tim Harlan,  who serves as the Medical Director at Tulane University Medical Group and as Executive Director for the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine. His presentation this week to our college focused on the efforts of a Teaching Kitchen for medical students at Tulane….essentially teaching medical students how to cook, not only to practice what they preach, but to have a more in depth understanding of how the quality of the diet affects various aspects of health.

How cool is that? Imagine having a doctor that could provide you with some practical information connecting cooking with your health. In fact, the teaching kitchen effort is also set up to provide cooking classes to the New Orleans community taught by medical students and residents! What I love about Dr. Harlan is that he is so passionate about keeping his patients off medication through making lifestyle changes, most definitely including improving the quality of his patients’ overall diets. This passion for food may come from the fact that before becoming a doctor, Dr. Harlan was a trained chef, owning his own French Bistro at the mere age of 22.

Dr. Gourmet

Though Dr. Harlan is coined by his own entrepreneurial endeavors as Dr. Gourmet, Dr. Harlan provided us with some great information representing Tulane’s Culinary Medicine program. His interest in spreading the trend of other medical schools providing a culinary aspect was pretty evident, and I can’t wait to see what comes of this program in the next few years. Dr. Harlan also provided everyone with a copy of one of his cookbooks, Hand on Heart.


Dr. Harlan providing his lecture— not the best quality picture, I know


One of Dr. Harlan’s cookbooks provided to us— everything in here looks so yummy! I can’t wait to make many of these recipes and share with you!

Below I’ve also included a few books that Dr. Harlan recommends– I’ve read a few of these before but I’d like to re-read and share some reviews with you guys in upcoming posts 🙂

Interested in learning more about Tulane’s Teaching Kitchen or Dr. Gourmet? Check out the links below!


Today’s post is inspired by my dog Lou’s insatiable appetite for hummus. Sometimes I think he eats better than me and my husband with his affinity for hummus, mangoes, clementines, and Greek yogurt. One thing I look towards the most every day is coming home and snacking on hummus with my pup 🙂

Lou collageCall it the food nerd and dietitian in me, but sometimes I get excited thinking about how something so delicious can be so healthy for you. And with the varieties of hummus that are out there, the sky is the limit on the flavor and nutrition profiles you can create with this great dip. Because hummus is essentially pureed garbanzo beans typically including olive oil and other “hummus staples”, hummus is a great source of protein, fiber, and heart healthy fat. Folate, zinc, and magnesium are additional vitamins and minerals that tend to be present in hummus as well.

Making your own hummus at home can be easy and fun, especially when putting your own spin on recipes. My favorite varieties of hummus tend to be on the spicy side 🙂 Below I have included One of my favorite recipes from fellow dietitian Roberta Duyff with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

Sun-Dried Tomato-Olive Hummus (don’t worry, not spicy 🙂 )


2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup finely-chopped sun-dried tomatoes (not oil packed)
1/4 cup sliced kalamata olives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or Italian (flat) parsley
2 tablespoons pine nuts for garnish (optional)
1 teaspoon paprika (optional)


  1. In a food processor or blender, combine chickpeas, yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and cumin. Process until smooth. Consistency should be smooth but not runny.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, olives and cilantro.
  3. Refrigerate for 1 hour or longer to blend flavors.
  4. To serve, top with pine nuts and/or paprika, if desired.

Nutrition Information

Serves 12 (1/4 cup serving)
Calories: 100
Calories from fat: 30; Total fat: 3.5g; Saturated fat: 0g; Trans fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium 210mg
Total carbohydrate: 13g; Dietary fiber: 3g; Sugars: 2g
Protein 4g


If you’re trying to decide how to eat your hummus outside of dipping a pita chip in there, see the 10 Helpful Hummus Tips from WebMD to create some variety in your hummus lifestyle:

1. Hummus serves as a super spread on sandwiches and wraps. Try it instead of mayonnaise. You’ll get more flavor with less fat.

2. Hummus turns into a tasty dressing. Blend some hummus with broth, water, or wine until you get your desired drizzling consistency to make a dressing for cold pasta salads.

3. Hummus serves as a great dip with raw veggies. Fill a serving bowl with the hummus of your choosing and surround the bowl with assorted raw vegetables such as sugar snap peas, sliced cucumber or zucchini, grape or cherry tomatoes, and broccoli or cauliflower florets.

4. Hummus + salsa = a spicy dip. Spice up plain hummus by blending in your favorite salsa. With about 20 seconds of mixing, a spicy dip is born.

5. Hummus is for hamburgers. Use hummus as a spread for veggie, turkey, or beef burgers in place of traditional condiments like mayonnaise, ketchup, barbecue sauce, or mustard.

6. Make a better bruschetta with hummus. For a more satisfying serving of bruschetta (an Italian appetizer of grilled sliced bread traditionally topped with a mixture of chopped tomato, garlic, olive oil, onion, and basil), top a sliced toasted baguette with some hummus before adding a dollop of the tomato bruschetta topping.

7. Hummus is easier to make than you may think. Just combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse for a minute. It keeps in the refrigerator for several days.

8. Serve hummus with whole grains. Hummus works well as an appetizer served with whole grain crackers and crisps. Toasted whole wheat pita pocket crisps or grilled whole grain tortilla triangles are ideal but whole wheat crackers complement the flavor of hummus, too.

9. Spread hummus instead of cream cheese. Try hummus on your whole grain bagel instead of cream cheese.

10. Hummus is a friend of falafel. If you are a fan of falafel (fried or baked crispy balls made with chickpeas, bulgur, and spices), hummus is a nice condiment for falafel served as an appetizer or as a filler in a pita sandwich.

Do you have a favorite hummus recipe? Please share and spread the hummus love 🙂 🙂