Salad bars: Savvy selections
Each week, a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. This week, Karen Kolowski weighs in on salad bars.
With springtime and bathing suit season around the corner, many people gravitate toward the salad bar. But, hidden in plain sight are high-calorie, fat-laden foods that can throw off the most determined person’s diet and resolve to eat a healthy meal. Here are some hints and tips to choose the healthier foods but also how to add some of your not-so-great favorites.
When deciding what you want to eat from the salad bar, be mindful when filling your bowl. The cheese is usually in chunks, with one serving being 1 chunk (1 ounce) of cheese. Pick only one type of cheese and add sparingly. Croutons and Chinese noodles add a nice crunch but can also add extra sodium and fat. The exact portion size depends on how large or small the croutons are but usually run between 5 – 10 pieces. Sunflower seeds can add some good fiber, protein and fats, but keep the serving size less than 1 Tablespoon. The biggest source of unwanted calories can come from salad dressing. Compare the calorie and fat content on a serving size of 2 tablespoons of each of these popular dressings: Blue cheese (142 cal, 16g fat); Caesar (163 cal, 17g fat); French (146 cal, 14g fat); Italian (84 cal, 8g fat) and balsamic vinegar (28 cal, 0g fat). How many of us easily put four tablespoons of blue cheese dressing on our salad? That’s almost 300 calories and 32 grams of fat, just from the dressing!
Make it colorful
When choosing foods from the salad bar try to aim for 4- 5 different colors. This will ensure you will get a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants:
Red: Contains lycopene and anthocyanins, both antioxidants. Lycopene can be found in tomatoes and watermelon and may help reduce the risk of several types of cancer, especially prostate cancer. Anthocyanins in red cabbage, strawberries, raspberries, and other red fruits and vegetables act as powerful antioxidants that protect cells from damage. These antioxidants are linked with keeping our hearts healthy, too. Good food choices: tomatoes, beets, red peppers, radishes, strawberries and watermelon. Sorry, but bacon bits cannot be counted in this color group!
Orange: Choose carrots and orange peppers as these foods are high in Vitamin C and carotenoids.
Yellow: Try some summer squash in your salad for an added dose of Vitamin C.
Dark Green: Pick dark leafy greens like romaine or spinach instead of pale iceberg lettuce. Romaine and spinach are both high in Vitamin A and folate and spinach is also high in fiber and Vitamin C. Add some fresh broccoli to your salad for some extra crunch and additional Vitamin C, fiber and potassium.
Animal protein and vegetable protein basically do the same thing for your health (growth and maintenance, energy, hormones), but some are better than others. Lean protein can give you the benefits that you need without added saturated fats. Flaked tuna without the mayonnaise, hard boiled eggs and beans are all excellent choices. Cottage cheese is a good source of protein but make sure it’s lowfat: 10g fat for 1 cup regular cottage cheese vs. 2g fat for 1 cup 1% lowfat.
Caution with “mixed salads”
There will most likely be the tempting pasta salad, seafood salad or macaroni salad mixed in with the fresh fruits and vegetables on the salad bar. Be very wary: Most will be made with full fat mayonnaise and salt. If these mixed salads are a must have, then just add one scoop to your plate of veggies. This gives you the taste that you love but keeps your calories (and waistline) in check.
Passing over pizza or sub sandwiches and heading to the salad bar is a great first step to improve your diet. By watching portion sizes, adding in lots of colorful veggies and lean protein, you can fit into that polka-dot bikini in no time.