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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Curse of the All-You-Can-Eat Salad Bar


Photo by spo0nman

You've decided to start that diet, in earnest, so for lunch, instead of heading to the local greaseburger palace with your comrades, you convince everyone that you should hit the local salad bar instead. After a lot of grumbling, your powers of persuasion work their magic and you hit the salad bar. You load up your plate with a few salad-y items, along with some of the potato salad, pasta salad, and man, does that Thai fried wonton noodle salad look good. This diet "thang" ain't so bad, after all.

You lovingly coat the contents of the entire plate with a little ambrosia of the gods...that's ranch dressing to the uninitiated. Then a little, or a lot, of fried goodness in the form of bacon bits never hurt anybody. Hey, at least they aren't those artificial Bac-O things. Those would be a tragedy! By the way, isn't "natural" better for you? Buttery croutons? Check...and freshly made this morning! What's that your hearing? The scintillating, siren song of the bread section calling your name? Corn bread, blueberry muffins, gingerbread muffins, and pizza! Check, check, check, and um, yeah...check! Whew, not bad...for Round 1.

What is it about salad bars that cause people to throw every ounce of common sense regarding healthy eating out of the door? Just because you are at a salad bar doesn't make the pizza there, a healthier choice. NEWSFLASH! IT'S NOT EVEN GOOD PIZZA! Every salad joint I've ever been to has enough healthy choices to satisfy even the pickiest eater. Take advantage of it and eat a variety of fruits and vegetables that you don't normally keep around the house.

Good choices:
  • The veggies (yes, even the avocado), pick a variety of colors
  • The fruit
  • Olive oil and vinegar dressing
  • Baked potato or sweet potato (watch those toppings!)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Clear broth soups

So-so choices:
  • Pizza - depends. I've seen some thin crust pizzas with a little cheese and lots of vegetables that were reasonable.

Not-so-good choices:
  • High fat dressings - that would be most of them
  • Cream-based soups - nothing like a little heavy cream to ruin something healthy
  • Bread - I'm not a low-carb nazi, but in a salad bar go for something more nutritious
  • Desserts - Ice cream, puddings, cake, cookies

I don't want to sound as if I believe that tasty, unhealthy fare should never cross your lips again. In fact, I say the opposite...you should plan several meals per week where you specifically have whatever food you want. What I am saying is that if you are going to a "healthy" restaurant, eat healthy. If you are going to a restaurant to have a "cheat" meal, then don't compromise, eat something really, really good. You start to get into trouble when you hang out between the two, eating meals that aren't particularly healthy and that aren't satisfying cravings.

Do you frequent all-you-can-eat salad bars? You aren't the guy/gal piling on the cheese and ranch dressing, are you? I didn't think so.

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Joey said...

I am not a big salad fan. There are two salads though that I really like. 1) House Salad from Outback, but I can't have this anymore because it just ain't the same without the honey mustard dressing 2) Side Salad from a local retaraunt named Bruno's if you leave the cheese off this one is still okay.

It is funny, you think of a salad bar being healthy. But when you get there it can be like a big dessert bar or bread heaven. One thing that bothers me about salad bars is some of them don't label things very well so you aren't quite sure what you are getting.

Scott Hidalgo said...

I happen to like salad and I enjoy going to salad bars, but more and more I find myself having to be pretty picky about what I eat there...if I'm trying to eat healthy.

I understand that they've got to make a buck and offer a variety of choices, some better than others. That's the point of the post, just because you are at a salad bar don't assume everything is healthy.

Thanks for the comment.

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