ask the nutritionist: at the salad bar

The salad bar can be a great place to build-you-own balanced meal or a place where you can feel like you are eating healthy when it really isn’t the case.

In college, the salad bar was my favorite aspect of dorm dining – when else do you have access to rows of clean and cut veggies? I frequented it on a daily basis and firmly believe that it helped prevent the dreaded freshman 15.

While I don’t get to the salad bar quite as often these days, it does make a great stand-in for those days that I don’t bring my own lunch. Here are my guidelines for building the perfect salad:

  • The lettuce base: the darker the better, think spinach and spring greens for the majority, and some romaine for added crunch if desired. Fill most of the container with lettuce.
  • Load up on veggies: add as many vegetables as you can, remembering the rainbow – think cucumber, broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes, sprouts, etc.
  • Add a protein: tofu, beans, chicken or lean deli meats. This will add some staying power to your salad.
  • The Extras: I sometimes like to add some deli salads for a little something extra, sometimes a grain or pasta, sometimes a veggie salad like the marinated Italian veggies shown here. If choosing a grain or mayo-based salad, stick to less than 1/2 cup.
  • Fat & Flavor: Add 1 Tbsp of nuts (choose nuts over croutons) or flavorful cheese (feta, blue or parmesan) for some healthy fats and extra flavor.
  • Dressing: Instead of the typical ranch dressing, try using  a balsamic vinaigrette or a sprinkle of olive oil and vinegar over your salad.

What ingredients does your ideal salad bar have?



Filed under antioxidants, ask the nutritionist, cheese, fats, great meals, grocery shopping, lose weight, nuts, protein, salad, tomatoes, Uncategorized, vegetables, whole foods

13 responses to “ask the nutritionist: at the salad bar

  1. Mo

    My ideal salad bar has a variety of mixed greens, everything you suggested, plus fresh fennel, shaved; and jicama!

  2. I love all salad bars! As long as the ingredients are fresh and there’s a wide variety 🙂

  3. Marie

    Chick peas!

  4. OK I need your vote on this one – favorite salad bar in the TC? I love Whole Foods, but it is $$!! Haven’t ever been to the Marshal Fields one, OR Fogo De Chao’s. Went to Q. Cumbers not too long ago for a throwback. 🙂

    • I think Whole Foods would be my favorite….I have never been to Q Cumbers, but heard good things about it! I usually end up at Lunds or Byerly’s because they are close to me. Fogo de Chao’s is amazing, but it is $20 I think, which I think is a little pricey for a salad 🙂

  5. beets and chickpeas. i have dori to thank for that after numerous trips to lunds for her salad. 🙂

  6. I love a good salad bar. Sadly they are normally whop-off expensive though so I can’t really justify it very often. If I go for it, I make sure to follow the lettuce rule and the veggie rule but the whole fun is in the additional stuff: beans, chick peas and grain salads are my faves. I find I don’t really need dressing if I have one of those!

  7. This is really great advice and appropriate timing since I just had the salad bar for lunch today. My only problem is the dressing. I load up on every veggie, no cheese, healty protines and fats, but I still can’t help but have it with the full fat dressing. It’s my only downfall. And I loved the salad bars in college…mine weren’t always as healthy as they are now, but I love creating new combinations.

  8. Great reminders for building a yummy salad! My favorite is your label of the “fat & flavor” category…definitely my favorite category! 🙂

  9. actorsdiet

    i ate a salad every day in college (we had the longest bar on the east coast apparently!) but it definitely didn’t help me prevent the freshman 15. probably because it was all cheese, olives, and salad dressing.

  10. beets, crunchy peas (a la Hyvee) and spinach. all my faves 🙂

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