A bowl of greens and vegetables seems like the best option on a menu of burgers, chicken nuggets, and fries. But depending on your choices, you can get a salad that has more fat, calories, sugar, and salt than you’d expect. The next time you're ordering, take these six steps to choose your salad wisely.
1. Check the Numbers: You should always check the nutrition details before you order. Many chains have that information posted in their restaurants.
2. Beware the 4 Cs: There are four words to avoid when choosing a salad: crunchy, creamy, chopped, and Cobb. “Crunchy is a code word for deep-fried.” It may mean garnishes, like bacon or crispy wonton, or it could refer to breaded and fried chicken. “Creamy” dressings really drive up the calories. A chopped salad sounds good, but it simply packs more high-calorie ingredients into a smaller package. Cobb salads often put bacon, cheese, eggs, croutons, and a creamy dressing all in one bowl.
3. Include Some Protein: Your salad should have more than leaves and veggies. Protein can be plant-based like beans, tofu, or nut, or a lean protein, like chicken. The fiber and protein together will keep you more satisfied than a bare-bones bowl of greens.
4. Be the Best Dressed: Dressing is a place where many salads cross the border from healthy to diet disaster. Opt for a reduced-fat option even if the salad you want usually comes with something else. If you bring your salad home, I recommend mixing about half the dressing with vinegar, to cut calories without skimping on dressing
5. Keep Fat in Balance: You don't have to avoid ingredients like avocado, cheese, seeds, or nuts. Some healthy fat goes a long way toward giving salad staying power. But you shouldn’t go crazy with these ingredients, either.
6. Go (Darker) Green: Many salads are filled with iceberg or romaine lettuce. You’ll get more nutritional bang for your buck if you go with something greener, such as spinach, arugula, or kale. “The darker the leaf, the more nutritional punch it packs.”