Real Girl Lifestyle

Make sure your salad isn’t really a hamburger.

Posted on: July 20, 2010

If you’re not careful, your salad can wind up packing more calories than even a cheeseburger.

Real Girl loves a salad bar. Especially the one at Whole Foods, with its quinoa salad mixtures, abundant dark greens, beautiful vegetables, and yummy dressings. But I never assume my Whole Foods salads are necessarily low-cal. In fact, certain salads can pack up to 800 calories or more. If you’re eating salad purely to lose weight, then you’re going to have to select your items carefully.

First, let’s talk dressing. Nonfat or lowfat does not mean low calorie. Often those dressings have more sugar in them to compensate. And the serving size–usually 2 tablespoons–really isn’t all that much. The average packet of salad dressing at a fast food restaurant holds twice that amount. So your biggest minefield to navigate at a salad bar, or when making your salad from scratch, is dressing. But Real Girl loves dressing. So here are some options for you to retain the flavor without adding in the extra calories.

1) Make your own dressing. I make a good one if you like balsamic vinegar. Use just a bit of olive oil (around 1 part oil or less to 3 parts balsamic vinegar), a teaspoon of dijon or spicy brown mustard, garlic powder, and herbs to taste–I like basil and thyme, dried is fine. Stir it all together, and you get a ton of piquant flavor and excitement to top your super healthy dark greens. If balsamic vinegar isn’t your taste, you can substitute lemon juice. If you only use at maximum a teaspoon of olive oil, you won’t have to hold back on the amount of dressing.

2) Dressing on the side is such a myth! Not that it exists, obviously, but that it saves calories. Often you’ll wind up adding just as much or more dressing than you would have otherwise. But instead of pouring dressing on your salad, make your fork work for you. Dip your fork in your dressing-on-the-side before digging into each forkful of greens. You’ll be sure to have dressing with every bite, and you’ll be devouring way fewer calories than a pour.

3) Another solution to avoid the caloric “pour” of dressing? Spritz it instead. These Wishbone Salad Spritzers are amazingly low-calorie. If you can keep some at work, then avoid the salad bar dressing altogether and use your own instead.

4) Do I need to tell you to give up creamy? Give up creamy. Caesar salad? Tons of calories. Ugh, and those croutons! Bad. But we’ll get to that…

Here are some bold salad bar dangers to avoid. It’s so hard, because all the yummy options are right there in front of you, and it’s salad! A little bit of extra something can’t hurt that much! Except, well, just look at the numbers. Croutons can add 90 calories to your salad per half cup. A half-cup of those crispy Asian noodles? 118 calories. Two tiny tablespoons of cheddar cheese adds about 114 calories. And those pre-marinated vegetables can be dripping in fatty oil. Much better to choose the undressed and unmarinated options. Nuts are healthy, but keep your sprinkle to a minimum–less than a tablespoon. Anything fried? Baaaad. That taco shell on a taco salad will cost you at least 300 calories. And of course, any mayonnaise-based salads, macaroni, chicken, tuna, potato, well–just don’t think of that as salad. Think of it as fattening.

So for now, work on avoiding those pitfall options, and Real Girl will holler back soon with some of the healthiest common salad items to get you on the right track. Mmmm, I just had spinach, quinoa, tomato, broccoli, carrot, chicken breast, grapes, and almonds from Whole Foods for lunch, and it was delicious!


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