Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Salad Bar Drama

The 2 salads below are from the same salad bar and look very similar but they are not. The ingredients are almost the same except one has chicken while the other has avocado but there is 394-calorie difference between the two. The difference is mostly in the amount of ingredients added, so when you’re at the salad bar, be mindful of portions and take a look at some of the calories that you may be adding to your salad.

713 Calories
319 Calories

Just keep in mind that a normal person trying to maintain their current weight (someone NOT on a diet) should probably be eating roughly 2,000 calories per day. About 500 should come from Lunch. (Note: if you’re trying to lose weight, a 350-calorie lunch is a much happier choice). A normal salad bar salad will come out to about 500-1200 calories depending on what you put on it.

I won’t bore you with a list of calories for every item at the bar. You can do that on your own, if you’re so inclined. This is merely a snapshot of what you might find at the bar and something to keep in mind next time you’re filing up your plate.

(hint: mushrooms, cucumbers, baby corn, beets, olives, tomatoes, radish, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, carrots, onions, and bell peppers are all under 30 calories per salad bar serving and great salad bar choices.)

If you have the option, Mixed greens is a better choice than Romaine or Iceberg. There are far more nutrients (and flavor) in Mixed greens. If you need the crunch that Romain lettuce provides, mix the two.

The Ad-Ons that you ACTUALLY want:
(I’ve calculated the calories in to servings that you would probably really use)

Sunflower Seeds = 110 calories for 2 scoops
Hardboiled Egg = 70 calories
Avocado ½  = 125 calories
Chickpeas = 143 calories for 3 scoops
Kidney Beans = 80 calories for 3 scoops
Raisins = 80 calories for1 scoop
Cheese (any variety) = 110 calories for 1 scoop
Bacon Bits = 30 calories in 1 scoop
Croutons = 80 in ½ cup
Pre-Cooked Chicken Breast = 110 calories for ½ breast (about 4 sliced pieces)

These are calculated from 2 tbsp., which is the general serving size and is about the size of a ping pong ball

Ranch = 148 calories
Creamy Balsamic Vinagarette = 90 calories
Light Balsamic Vinagarette = 45 calories
Blue Cheese = 145 calories
Thousand Island = 118 calories
Italian = 56 calories
Caesar = 140

For the record, not all calories are bad. Avocados will keep you full for hours, same with chickpeas and hardboiled eggs—just use in moderation and if you have to have cheese on your salad (as I do), just know that you’re adding 110 calories with a pretty small amount of cheese…so enjoy the hell out of it. As for dressings, if you can’t eat a salad without a creamy dressing (again, like me), then maybe see how little you can put on your salad and still enjoy it.

Don’t freak out and never go to the salad bar again, just be aware of what you’re doing once you’re there.

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  1. Given the options you calculated out + one salad dressing (creamy balsamic) you've created a 1028 calorie salad. :)

  2. Yes, if you use all of those ingredients.. thats why you should be a bit choosy on what you really WANT in a salad and manage your portions (ie. do you REALLY need 1/2 an avocado? or can you get the same satisfaction from 1/4 of one?).

    Also, be weary of Restaurant salads, they almost all have over 1,000 calories.

    Just memorizing the calorie content of some of the foods that I eat a lot has helped me manage my portions and calorie intake. Thats why the salad I ate came out to 319 calories. :)

    Good times.