Restaurant Eating Done Right: How to detect a healthy salad

From Rita Stewart
U.K. Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences

Dining out is filled with temptation, but you may want to stick to your mindful eating regime and order a salad. But how can you know if a salad is actually as unhealthy as some of the other options? Use these tips to filter through the surprisingly unhealthy add-ins:
 •Chances are you will have to alter the salad menu options one way or another; so, a good start is to look for a salad that requires the least or most simplistic amount of change and go from there. Look for these components:
•Mixed greens, spinach or kale will make you feel fuller and provide more nutrients than iceberg lettuce, which has a high water content and low nutrient content.
•Some type of lean protein such as chicken, fish, beans or hardboiled egg.
•As many other vegetables as possible.
 •Steer clear of these ingredients:
• Anything fried.
•Watch out for toppings — croutons, wonton strips, tortilla strips. Ask the server to go light on these ingredients or avoid them all together. Nuts are a great way to get a protein-packed crunch that will be more filling.
•Processed cheese. Ask the server to go lightly on cheese, as often restaurants will pile salads high with a mound of cheese.
•Protein drenched in high-sugar/high-sodium sauces. Ask for the plain version.
•Get creative with dressing. It’s almost a guarantee restaurant salad dressings are high enough in sugar, sodium, fat and added ingredients to ruin the entire meal.
Almost always a restaurant will have oil and vinegar as a dressing option. A great tip at pizza parlors is to use the Parmesan, Italian seasoning and/or crushed red pepper that is already on the table to boost flavor. Get creative and mash the avocado in the salad to cover the ingredients or use salsa, cottage cheese or hummus as dressing.
 •Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. For instance if you see a salad that looks great but it’s offered with iceberg lettuce, ask for spinach instead if you see it offered in another menu option. Although no one wants to be the overly-picky diner, a few requests are understandable.
For more information on this or other nutritional topics, please call your UK Lincoln County Extension Office at (606) 365-2447. Our office is located at 104 Metker Trail in Stanford.