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March 2, 2011

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 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.

Portion distortion
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.

Keep your protein lean
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.
Posted by Kim Walker at 10:11 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Nutrition


good info

i agree ... a salad of bacon bits, cheese, eggs, walnuts and ranch dressing over iceberg might sound good but probably would get you on the operating table for bypass surgery just as quickly as a steak.

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Andrea Siegel, a reporter at The Baltimore Sun, covers mostly crime and courts in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, as well as legal issues. She wishes she was more physically fit, and, as she's more fond of chocolate than exercise, fitness is a challenge. Her partner on a one-mile-plus daily walk is the family dog, a mixed breed named Moxie, and she exercises at the gym where the D.C. snipers once worked out.
Jerry Jackson has been a photo editor at The Baltimore Sun for 14 years and an avid cyclist for more than 30 years. Inspired by the movie "Breaking Away," he started racing as a teenager in Mississippi when leather "brain baskets" were still the norm. He regularly commutes to work by bike and still enters several mountain bike races a year for fun.
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Patrick Maynard, who will be writing about running and walking, has been a producer for since 2008. In 2009, he tweeted on-course for the Sun from the Baltimore Marathon, finishing in just under 4 hours and almost managing to run the whole time. He sometimes walks to the Sun offices on Calvert Street.
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Leeann Adams, a multimedia editor at The Baltimore Sun, also dabbles in content for the mobile website and iPhone app and covers the Ravens via video. She did a triathlon to celebrate her 40th birthday and continues to swim, bike and run -- none of them quickly, though. Her biggest fitness challenge is to balance working, working out, spending time with her husband and being a mom to a 6-year-old boy.
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Anica Butler, the Sun's crime editor, is a former high school runner and recovering vegetarian who spent more of her early-adult years on a bar stool than working out. She is currently training (though poorly) for a half marathon and is trying to live a generally healthier lifestyle. She also hates the gym.
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