The salad. It used to be a “safe” food on the menu for those watching their calories when dining out. First of all, salad eaters should be commended…who wants to sit across the table from a friend enjoying their juicy burger, while they stab at some iceberg lettuce? Food envy is no fun! When I read the article about “20 salads that are worse than a Whopper,” I was shocked. I would have ordered several of these salads not thinking twice that I was consuming all of the calories in my salad bowl that I needed for the day. However, what I found out, was that more often than not, many salads at chain restaurants have more calories (a lot more calories) than our friend’s loaded burger. Restaurants are savvy and know that nutrition “sells” these days. The number of salads being offered on menus continues to grow and they promote their salads as healthy alternatives to other items on their menus. Menus even boast that their salads are “light” or “healthy.” However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth, many of these salads contain over 800 calories and 50 grams of fat. One might ask, how could a SALAD have so many calories? Part of the reason salad calories are so high, is the sheer size of the salad bowl. These salad troughs can hold not only a lot of spinach leaves, but also have plenty of room for cups of cheese, croutons, nuts, dried fruit, and the biggest calorie drencher…salad dressing. In order to coat all of these ingredients, it could take 1/2 a cup of salad dressing easily = 400 calories. Here are some tips to keep you from falling prey to salad sabotage: 1) Check out the calories ahead of time. Restaurant websites are providing calorie counts on menu items, and nutrient analysis websites such as www.calorieking.com are up to date with restaurant food calories as well. 2) Order 1/2 a salad and round it out with a broth-based soup. 3) Take control and ask for dressings to be put on the side, for the chef to go light on the cheese, or leave off ingredients that you could live without. 4) Choose salads that list more vegetables in the description than “condiment” like ingredients, such as dried fruit, candied nuts, cheese, croutons, and bacon. Next time as you pass up what you really want on the menu, and tell the waiter with a sigh that you will “just have a salad…, ” check out the astonishing calorie numbers below, and perhaps…the 500 calorie burger is the lightest thing on the menu… 1. Einstein Bros Bistro Salad with Chicken: 940 calories 2. Applebee’s Grilled Shrimp and Spinach Salad: 1,050 3. California Pizza Kitchen Field Greens Salad with Gorgonzola Cheese: 1,360 4. California Pizza Kitchen Thai Crunch Salad with Fresh Avocado: 1,399 5. T.G.I. Friday’s Santa Fe Chopped Salad: 1,800 calories For the other 15 salads check out: 20 Salads Worse than a Whopper
Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.