I was just writing this to a client and it is really something everyone should know. So I’m sharing!
If you’re eating a salad because you’re trying to eat healthy you’ll have to make adjustments (see below), or just go ahead and eat what you really want because it might actually be better for you.
Just because a restaurant labels something a “salad” doesn’t mean it is healthy. You have to really look at what is in it. So here is what you’re looking for.
Anatomy of a Healthy Salad
- mostly vegetables (good carbs)
- a lean meat like chicken or fish (protein)
- a little dressing (fat)
*The calories will be around 400, which is what a meal should be.
One of my favorites in this category is the Farmshop Poached Chicken Salad.
Anatomy of 99% of Chain Restaurant Salads
- a little lettuce (good carb)
- if you’re lucky, another vegetable (good carb)
- cheese (fat/high calorie, little protein)
- avocado (fat/high cals)
- nuts (fat/high cals, little protein)
- hardboiled egg (protein)
- meat of some kind (protein, sometimes fatty)
- way too much dressing (fat/high cals)
- croutons (not so good carb, fat)
*The calories can be anywhere from 800-1600! For a freaking “salad”!
How to Save Your Restaurant Salad
- Pick only ONE of these: nuts, cheese, avocado.
All of these are fine in small portions on their own, but all at the same time become a fat and calorie grenade on your salad.
- Pick ONE protein. Chicken/fish/steak or hardboiled egg.
An exception is in the Farmshop salad, for example, because the portion of each is not excessive. So use your best judgement.
- Order dressing on the side.
If you don’t want to dip, just pour half of it on the salad to start, it will be enough for flavor, trust me.
*Note: when I say “pour half” I mean if it comes in a little ramekin. If you’re at Cheesecake Factory and they give you a boat of dressing on the side, do NOT pour half of that on your salad. Take a table spoon of the dressing and drizzle it. An additional tablespoon if you like, but not the whole boat of dressing.
- Choose the leanest protein possible.
Avoid fried, battered or crusted in anything.
Worst Case Scenario Order
Get the house salad, dressing on the side, and a side of chicken breast or lean fish. BAM!
You can even do this at Denny’s. Just sayin’.
You may end up not liking salads anymore, and that’s okay. If you were eating the Cobb Salad thinking they are healthy and I just killed that for you, I’m not sorry. You needed to know the truth!
If you still love salads I’ve just shed some light for you.
And if you’re trying to GAIN weight, awesome! You’re on the right track with these!
Small Ceasar Salad with Chicken = 980 calories
Regular size = 1510 effing calories
Grilled Chicken Tostada Salad = 1130
Chili’s “Fresh Take Salads” (Aaah, Marketing 101 at it’s finest right there)
Quesadilla Explosion Salad = 1400
Boneless Buffalo Chicken Salad = 1010
Crispy Chicken Salad with fried chicken = 1390
with grilled chicken = 1280
You can safely assume that all of these salads have an insane amount of fat as well. I only mention calories because they matter. While calories aren’t the only way to determine if something is healthy or not, if you don’t pay attention to them you could be packing on pounds or not losing weight when you want to be.
To give a frame of reference here, I am a 5′ 9″, 36 year old female athlete weighing about 155 pounds right now. In order to maintain my weight I need to take in about 2100 calories. So eating a 1300 calorie salad in one meal doesn’t leave much for the rest of the day!
A pound is 3500 calories, so if I were to take in an extra 500 calories a day I would gain 1 pound in 1 week. Similarly, if I want to lose 1 pound a week, I could cut or burn 500 calories a day.
So there you have it. A little salad and calorie education. Choose wisely, but whatever you do, make sure you enjoy it. If it is not amazing, don’t put it in your precious face.