When you’re trying to pick the healthiest option from a restaurant menu, the default option is to choose from one of the salads. Unfortunately, restaurant salads can conceal a lot of extra fat and calories that make them no healthier than a burger or club sandwich. Next time you’re about to order a salad, go through this checklist of things to watch for so you can more accurately judge whether or not a salad is actually as healthy as you think it is.
What’s the Protein?
Most main course salads have some form of protein in them to help keep you full throughout the day. Unfortunately, a lot of proteins like chicken of beef either come fried or are fatty cuts of meat, which results in a lot of extra fat and calories that you may not expect from a salad. Look for a salad that has a lean source of protein, such as a grilled white fish like Tilapia.
What’s the Dressing?
Salad dressings can pack a huge number of calories. A restaurant Caesar salad can be over 1,000 calories, largely due to the ingredients in the dressing!
When choosing a salad, look for a vinaigrette style dressing. These tend to be better for you than other types of dressings. Avoid ordering a salad with a creamy dressing, as these tend to be the highest in calories and fat. You may want to consider asking for the dressing on the side so that you can control how much goes onto the salad as well.
How Big is the Portion Size?
A lot of restaurant salads are gigantic. You may find that the serving size is actually more than one portion, even for a healthy salad. Keep in mind that you don’t have to finish the whole thing, but can instead ask your server to pack it up to go (and if you portion off half and pack it up right away, you won’t be tempted to eat the whole thing). Not only will you avoid overeating, but you’ll have a nutritious lunch to bring to work the next day!
Where are the Nutrients?
While lettuce may seem healthy, common salad lettuces like iceberg lettuce and butter lettuce are mostly made up of water and contain very few nutrients. Opt for salads that contain leafy, nutrient-rich greens such as spinach and kale, as they’ll provide you with far more vitamins than the paler greens. Also, look for healthy add-ons in the salad like grilled fish, sunflower seeds, almonds and colorful veggies.
Can You Make Substitutions?
If you’re looking at ordering a delicious salad, but it comes with unhealthy ingredients like shredded cheese or bacon bits, ask the chef if any substitutions can be made. That way, you can enjoy all the ingredients you love like tomatoes and spinach, without any of the unhealthy bits that take away from your good diet.
Ordering a salad can be a great option when you’re eating out. By using these tips, you can be sure you’re getting a healthy meal without any unhealthy surprises.