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.

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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:

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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.

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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 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Creating the Perfect Salad

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