It depends. This was the topic at last week’s Weight Watcher’s meeting. Our leader told the story of her two friends who went out to eat to celebrate a special occasion. They went to a steakhouse and both decided on a salad because they wanted to eat “healthy” to reaffirm their commitment to maintaining an incredible weight loss. Both people had worked hard to take control of their health and they had maintained this lifestyle for a few months. So, bring on the salads! They had a salad and then split a dessert because they had been so “good” with their dinner.
The grand total of their dinner/dessert? 43 points. On salad alone, they used 29. To put this in perspective, 29 points is the allowance for the WHOLE DAY. And, according to the WW plan, we get 49 extra points to be used during a whole WEEK. They used almost their entire weekly extra points on salad and carrot cake. They would have been better off getting a peite sirloin, half a sweet potato no butter, and vegetables AND dessert. How did this happen?
Salads in restaurants are almost always dangerous unless you are building your own from a salad bar. When salads start with lettuce and plain veggies, they are great. Adding lean protein is a good choice. Adding lean protein that has been marinated in a sugary, salty marinade is not wise. What about eggs? Sure, 1 egg is a great idea. Most restaurants add 2 or 3 whole eggs and that is 4-6 points on something that doesn’t have much taste. What salad is good without cheese? Add a quarter cup of shredded mild cheddar and you’ve not only greatly increased the points, but you’ve done it with something that you can’t taste! Mild cheddar has about as much taste as confetti. So now we have lettuce, veggies, protein, eggs, cheese and then it’s time for croutons. Those are not THAT bad, but it’s the amount and whether or not they’ve been oil baked. Don’t forget the bacon. Now it’s ready for dressing. Who likes fat free ranch? Not many people. If you’re going to spend good money on a salad in a restaurant across the table from someone drooling in their steak and jacket potato, it’s easy to see how that great big dollop of full fat Hidden Valley landed on top. Even if it’s “on the side”, that huge fork is a great shovel.
So how do you do it?
1. First, do your homework. If you’re going to a chain restaurant, check in the nutrition information first and figure the points. Most restaurants do not have healthy salads and the portion is mind-boggling.
2. Be picky. Ask for more than dressing on the side. Ask for the cheese, too. BUT, don’t even get the cheese unless it’s a good sharp cheddar or strong parmesan. You will NOT use as much and you control the amount. Ask for the croutons on the side. No shame in asking them to bring a bowl of greens/veggies and the cheese, croutons, and dressing on the side. You’re paying for the food, ask for it your way. BUT, if you did your homework, chances are that you found a better higher protein meal that will put that salad to shame and keep you fuller longer.
3. Be careful with the meat and marinated vegetables. Fried tenders and 3 bean salad are calorie/point traps.
For lunch, I wanted a big salad and I wanted a lot of protein. I needed this to fill me up without putting me in a food coma for 2 hours. I’ve been on a roasted or sautéed vegetable kick lately and I love these on salad greens. I find that most of the time, I don’t use dressing and when I do, I like plain oil and red wine vinegar.
- Mixed greens and arugula
- sautéed mushrooms and onions
- lean beef tenderloin seasoned with chipotle spice
- roasted cherry tomatoes
- Cabot 75% reduced fat extra sharp Vermont cheddar
- No dressing. This had warm vegetables and beef and I didn’t want dressing.
- Grand total: 9 points.