Nutrition Articles

Strategies for Salad Bar Survival

Not Every Salad is Diet-Friendly

The infamous salad bar, available everywhere from work cafeterias to family restaurants, can round out a meal with a wholesome side dish, or be a meal all by itself. What could be more healthy and nutritious? Those vegetables and fruits can be loaded with a variety of nutrients, including beta-carotene, vitamins A and C, potassium, folic acid and fiber.

However, the salad bar can also be filled with dangerous landmines, ready to blow your calorie intake to smithereens! In fact, if you’re not careful, you can innocently fill that salad plate with items that add up to over 1,000 calories—more than a burger and fries or a steak and potato dinner!

Take the safe path and apply these strategies to avoid salad bar traps:
  • Use a smaller plate; limit the number of trips you make.
  • Start with the nutrient-rich dark green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach, romaine, and endive.
  • Fill up your plate with vegetables like lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, broccoli and tomatoes.
  • Power on the protein with legumes, beans, lean meat, turkey, and crabmeat.
  • Take only a small taste of the high-fat food items such as pasta salad, potato salad, macaroni salad, and coleslaw.
  • Go easy on extras like croutons, chow mein noodles, crackers, nuts, seeds, crumbled bacon, and shredded cheeses.
  • Dress your salad for success with 2 tablespoons of a low-calorie or light salad dressing, OR only 1 tablespoon of regular salad dressing. For a new taste twist try a splash of flavored vinegar.
  • If the salad bar contains soups, go for a broth-based version over a cream-style selection.
  • Allow only a small taste of the whipped topping-jello-fruit combinations.
  • For dessert, return to the salad bar for a small plate of fruit topped with a little yogurt or cottage cheese.
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

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