Are Restaurant Salads a Smart Choice?

Posted on by Margo Gladding

balela-bean-saladIf you think that you are making the healthiest choice by ordering a salad at your favorite restaurant, you may want to think twice. While salads can be low in calories and a great way to eat more fruits and vegetables, more often than not, they are loaded with a lot of fat, sodium, and calories. Restaurants can sabotage your good intentions by offering salads that are topped with crispy (fried) chicken, processed meats, mayo-rich tuna, chicken, shrimp, potato or pasta salad, glazed nuts, sweetened dried fruit, crunchy noodles or onions, croutons, cheese, sour cream and bacon. And, they may be served in a fried taco shell, and often loaded with creamy salad dressings. In addition, the portion size is often way too big for one person to consume in one sitting. To get the most out of a salad, skip the classic Caesar, Cobb, or taco salad, and choose one that features a variety of mixed salad greens and dark leafy greens such as kale or spinach. Opt for salads that feature raw or roasted vegetables (carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, mushrooms, peppers, etc.), beans, grilled chicken, shrimp or fish, avocado, hardboiled egg, olives, and a light sprinkling of cheese. And, always opt for a vinaigrette salad dressing served on the side so that you can drizzle on the amount you choose. I recently had a delicious healthy salad at a restaurant that has become a new favorite of mine. It is a Middle Eastern salad called Balela and it is vegan and gluten free. Wanting to recreate this salad at home, I found a great recipe online from The Reluctant Entertainer. The salad contains chickpeas, black beans, sundried tomatoes, tomatoes, onion, jalepeno pepper, feta cheese, and a variety of spices like fresh dill, basil and parsley. The dressing has olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and fresh garlic. Depending on what I have in my refrigerator, I have added cucumber, olives and sautéed mushrooms. It is definitely one of those dishes that get better when it sits in the refrigerator and soaks up all of the flavors. Balela makes a wonderful stand-alone salad or can be enjoyed as a side salad or even a dip. And, it makes a fantastic, healthy dish to bring to holiday potluck. Yum, yum, yum! Photo from here, with thanks.