How’s Your Salad Bar Savvy?


Learn to Pick a Winning Combination Every Time

The salad bar offers you a chance at a healthy, delicious meal—even if your lunchmates are chowing down on burgers and fries. But along with nutrition-packed goodies, all sorts of diet-destroying baddies lurk behind the sneeze shield. Test your knowledge of which salad ingredients pack the greatest nutritional punch and get ready to be a more savvy bar-hopper.

1. You already know that iceberg lettuce is basically crunchy water—low in calories and every other nutrient. But which of these leafy alternatives is really greener on the other side?
a) romaine lettuce
b) spinach

2. Scoot your plate down the line and load it up with veggies. If you’re paying for your salad by weight, which of these choices offers the greatest nutritional bang for your buck?
a) chopped tomatoes
b) carrot sticks

3. Add a little protein to your plate to ward off the mid-afternoon blahs. Which do you pick to keep your energy up and your caloric intake down?
a) cottage cheese
b) black beans

4. No salad’s complete without a little crunch. Which topper is the best choice for a tooth-satisfying snap that won’t crush your diet?
a) chopped peanuts
b) croutons

5. Dress it up with an extra splash of flavor. Which dressing do you choose to add taste without extra calories?
a) light blue cheese dressing
b) light Italian dressing

6. You’ve cleaned your plate and you’re still hungry. Which of these choices will complete your meal without compromising your diet?
a) A scoop of potato salad
b) A dish of soft-serve ice cream

Check Yourself

1. (b) While all three choices are low in calories, spinach also provides 0.81 milligrams iron per one-cup serving (romaine offers just over half this amount). Tip: Spruce up your spinach salad by squeezing a lemon wedge over the leaves. The Vitamin C in the lemon juice helps your body absorb the spinach’s iron more efficiently.

2. (a) In addition to their substantial Vitamin C and fiber content, a serving of tomatoes also provides as much iron as a serving of fresh spinach. Carrots are nutritional powerhouses, too—but the carrot sticks you’ll find at a salad bar are typically peeled, removing the most vitamin-dense layer just under their skins. Fortunately, unless you’re digging through your sofa cushions for lunch money, you can afford to splurge on any of these low-calorie veggies. Go ahead and pile that plate high. Tip: At home, scrub carrots thoroughly instead of peeling them to preserve their nutrients.

3. (b) Cottage cheese has been a popular item on dieters’ plates since the 1950s. But feel free to leave it off your salad if you’re watching your weight. Fat-free cottage cheese may be a staple in your refrigerator, but what you’ll usually get at a salad bar is its full-fat cousin, packing 5 grams of fat and 120 calories per half-cup. A half-cup of black beans, though, contains 8.3 grams of fiber but weighs in at just 109 calories and less than half a gram of fat. Tip: Combine black beans with a scoop of corn for a protein combination your body will thank you for (and another serving of veggies to boot).

4. (a) They may have gotten a bad rap for the fat they contain, but peanuts may really do your body more good than harm. Low in saturated fat and high in heart-healthy polyunsaturated fat, they’ve been suggested by some recent studies to help reduce the risk of heart disease. Compare these little wonders with oil-soaked croutons, which contribute little more to your diet than 66 calories per half-ounce serving. Tip: Craving crouton crunch? Make your own by misting cubes of whole-grain bread with olive oil-flavored cooking spray, sprinkling with dried Italian seasoning and toasting in a 400-degree oven for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. (a) Surprised? Creamy foods like blue cheese dressing can help satisfy your appetite, making you feel fuller after eating less. The strong, distinctive flavor of blue cheese reduces the need for oils and fillers in the dressing, too—it charts at just 28 calories per 2 Tbsp serving, while the same amount of light Italian dressing has 53 calories and 4.5 grams of fat. Tip: Rather than dumping dressing on your salad, use paper portion cups to measure first. A small portion cup holds just about 2 Tbsp of dressing.

6. (b) Made with full-fat mayonnaise and sometimes hard-boiled egg yolks, creamy potato salad weighs in at 160 calories and 9 grams of fat per half-cup serving. The same amount of soft-serve light vanilla ice cream comes in at 111 calories and 2 grams of fat. Tip: Don’t go overboard on portion size. Filling a cone makes it hard to see how much ice cream you’re really getting. Use a small bowl instead to keep calories in check.

Super Salads

Check Out Utah’s Best

Looking for a meal that will fill you up without weighing you down? We’ve picked four restaurants and one grocery store where the salad choices are fresh, seasonal and always delicious. Whether you’re in the mood for a classic plate of greens or something a little more exotic, one of these dining options is sure to fit the bill.

Tucanos Brazilian Grill
This Salt Lake-area favorite is famous for its skewers of grilled meats and veggies. But don’t miss the Salad Festival, where you’ll find traditional salad bar offerings alongside unusual (and tasty) alternatives like collard greens, black and brown beans and even marinated quail eggs.

162 South 400 West, Salt Lake City
4801 North University Avenue, Provo

Café Rio
Though Café Rio’s salads come from the kitchen, not the salad bar, they offer so many options for customizing each dish that you’ll never have to eat the same salad twice. Handmade tortillas, freshly grilled meats and a choice of dressing (try the cilantro-lime vinaigrette!) transform simple salad ingredients into a satisfying meal.

532 East 400 South, Salt Lake City
3025 East 3300 South, Salt Lake City
6985 South Park Center, Salt Lake City
Other locations throughout Utah

Cafe Zupas
At this Utah chain you can choose from 11 delicious salads on the menu, like Pina Colada Chicken, Nuts About Berries and Vermont Maple Blueberry. Or create your own from Zupas long list of greens, dressings, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, nuts and other toppings. You’ll love the variety of combinations you can invent, and each tasty salad includes fresh bread and a chocolate-dipped strawberry.

64 East 12300 South, Draper
6550 South 3000 East, Holladay
10860 South Riverfront Parkway, South Jordan
408 West 2230 North, Provo
599 West Main Street, American Fork

Rodizio Grill
This Brazilian steakhouse’s main offering is unlimited skewered meat, but if you’re looking for a plentiful salad bar, Rodizio offers a variety of pre-made salads like Ceasar, Greek and Tabouleh, along with hot and cold items that can be combined for a sensational salad. Unlimited Brazilian appetizers are also included.

Trolley Square Mall, 600 South 700 East, Salt Lake City

Harmon’s Grocery
Does the idea of a supermarket salad bar summon up notions of wilted lettuce and tired toppings? One trip to Harmon’s can change all that. Choose from up to 75 different options, including seasonal produce and house-made salad combinations. Pair your salad with one of Harmon’s fresh-baked artisan breads for a complete, delicious lunch.

3200 South 1300 East, Salt Lake City
13800 South 125 East, Draper
7700 South 700 East, Sandy
5400 South 700 East, Sandy
5400 South Redwood, Taylorsville
Other locations throughout Utah


About Author

Molly writes about fitness and nutrition from her home in Portland, Oregon. When she’s not at her desk, you can find her teaching history, hiking the Gorge, or hitting the archery range.

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