Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Are you sabotaging your salad?

I have a book – “Skinny Chicks Don’t Eat Salads” – that I bought for the title and love for the small serving recipes.  It’s was a source of comic relief for me and it taught me a lot about making choices and portion control. 
Despite what the title of the book implies, of course skinny chicks eat salads! They just make the better choices when it comes to filling that salad bowl. 

Let me help you visualize this:  When I worked at Texas Roadhouse – on and off for 10 long years – this was a common customer interaction:

Me:  If you are ready to order, might I recommend the 12 oz. Ribeye with a loaded sweet potato and a side salad?.
Guest:  Well, I am trying to eat a little lighter these days, so I think I’ll go with a salad.
Me:  Excellent choice; our Grilled Chicken Caesar is a good choice, and with the dressing on the side it’s a very light dish. 
Guest:  No, no…I’ll go ahead with the Grilled Chicken Salad, Ranch dressing please…..
Me:  I’ll get that right out for you!  (Smiling)
What I’m really thinking?!  C'mon; seriously?!?! 

Now, you might not know what is on a Grilled Chicken Salad at the Texas Roadhouse, so let me share that with you: [From their menu] Crisp cold greens, strips of marinated chicken, jack cheese, egg, tomato, bacon, red onion and croutons.  Served with your choice of made from scratch dressing. (790 calories)

Yes, you read that right….790!  Enough calories for 2 meals…and that is not counting the dressing…when you order a large salad that 3 oz. ramekin of ranch that comes with it boasts 400…most people use 2 of those to coat their salads.  That brings your “light meal” in at a whopping 1590 calories.

But salads can be the right choice, one that will allow you to get in a variety of vegetables, healthy fats and protein. Just follow these 5 guidelines to really make your salad healthy.

#1: Remember: all salad bar items are not created equal.
Many people start with the right foundation – spinach, kale, spring mix (no iceberg for you!) and continue down the line, adding carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, peppers…and then those calorie-packed toppings appear and we start to pile on that shredded cheese, pasta, croutons or even those crunchy sesame noodles.  These add-on’s don’t always have to be a “no” but you need to be mindful that they carry a higher number of calories and a lower number of nutrients. 
#2: Experiment with color!
At the end of the line you should be thinking “I need to take a picture this salad is so pretty!”  A variety of color means a variety of nutrition.

"Darker color veggies like broccoli, spinach, peppers, and carrots have the most nutritional value," explains Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD, about phytonutrients. "But each color—red cranberries, white onions, orange carrots, green peppers—has different antioxidant properties and different ways to protect against things like cancer or heart disease."
#3: Don’t over justify the “good” fats.
We know that fats are essential and that you should not avoid them.  But REMEMBER THIS: an ounce of fat contains more than twice as many calories as an ounce of protein (9 calories v. 4).   Salmon, eggs, olive oil, avocados, and nuts contain disease-fighting nutrients and help keep cholesterol down, both leaving your heart very happy and very healthy.  Generally, you don't need more than two thumbs' worth of fat on a salad, so maybe a wedge of avocado and a small spoonful of sunflower seeds.  
#4: Stop with the dressing!
If you can’t resist the creamy dressings or the store bought high sugar varieties, please use in moderation.  My suggestion is to keep a small ramekin on the side of your plate, dip the fork then stab the salad.  We have all made fun of the TV commercials that show women doing this but it will drastically cut down on your dressing intake (read: calorie intake)

At home experiment with different Olive Oil & Vinegar combinations. Mix them up, experiment with different seasonings and have some fun!  You’ll cut out all the sugar, salt and bad fats in those processed dressings. My favorite: 1 TB EVOO, 2 TB Balsamic Vinegar, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp fresh ground pepper shaken. Usually enough for 2 salads or one large tossed.

#5: Don't worry about seeming 'picky'.
Don't want to annoy your survey by being complicated? Believe me, asking to leave a few things off your salad will be nothing near the worst they've experienced. 

If your friends or family give you a hard time shrug it off; they aren't the ones eating it. If you don't engage the moment will pass and you'll be much happier with yourself for making the healthier choice.

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