Chicken Cobb Salad

How To Confidently Create A Healthy Salad From Any Restaurant Part I

Imagine that you just completed a big project with your co-workers. It’s lunch time and the team wants to celebrate. You guys decide to go to a nice Americana type restaurant.

“Oh-oh, I forgot to look at the menu ahead of time”, you tell yourself.

You’ve been secretly trying to drop a few pounds but didn’t want your co-workers to know. You now have two options.

#1)  You can give in and embrace the lunch.  Hey you’re not paying for it; it’s on the company’s dime!

You might as well go big!  Bring on the dessert menu because you earned it by getting that project done!

OR

#2)   You can tell yourself that:

“You know what, despite me eating out I still can’t forget my goal. I’ll just eat something that I won’t regret. “

If you go with option 2, you’re wise my friend. When out at a restaurant those who go with option #2 tend to go with a simple salad.

Excellent choice…if you know how to properly order one.

Well, after today that will no longer be the case! Here’s MicVinny’s advice on how to properly order a salad.

Mo’ Greener Da Salad Da Mo Better!

The first reason most people go towards salads is because they know vegetables are good for them, so salad is a natural selection. Most restaurants have caught on and the sad truth is that almost ANYTHING can be passed as a salad nowadays.

Several restaurants just take some of their best items, toss them in a bowl with a few lettuce leaves and throw some salad dressing on top and <BOOM> call it a salad.

salad made of fried calamari, shrimp, fish, mussels, crab and raw onions
Fried Seafood Salad w/ a touch of Green

You’re going to be smarter than that. When looking for salad options, the first thing you want to do is check for what other vegetables are in that salad besides iceberg lettuce.

If you look up nutrition data you will see that there’s really not a lot of nutritional value to iceberg lettuce. Just because it’s green and a vegetable doesn’t automatically mean it’s supplying all the healthy vitamins your body needs. Here are the stats of iceberg lettuce.

iceberg lettuce statsNow compare that to Romain lettuce & Spinach.

Spinach nutritional information

Romaine lettuce nutritional infoYou see the difference in vitamins and minerals!  When eating green vegetables we want lots of vitamins. That’s why we eat vegetables. So look for salad options that contain romaine, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, cabbage, etc.

Seek other Vegetables

Salad bowl with green saladOnce the search for green is over, now try to see what other veggies are in your salad. When it comes to eating vegetables and fruit, it’s good to think in terms of eating a rainbow. Eating a diverse set of colors insures that you can get all the different vitamins each color group provides.

eggplant feta saladLook in that salad menu for more vegetable options like:

  • cucumbers
  • tomatoes
  • corn
  • celery
  • peppers
  • carrots
  • beets
  • onions
  • mushrooms
  • red cabbage
  • etc.

 

Get Comfortable With Making Special Request

 

Healthy fruit salad with cheeseIf you really want to get the best meal possible, you have to be comfortable with substituting or adding to what you see on menus by defaults. Just because a salad is listed a certain way, does not mean you have to get it EXACTLY as ordered. This was something I use to be terrified to do as well.

It’s the equivalent of going to a fast food restaurant and ordering only by numbers.

NO!!!

You have the ability to get exactly what you want if you just ask for it.

So learn how to get comfy because the salad that’s going to help you change your body is something you will have to customize. Use what’s written as a good base but feel confident that you can change it for your needs.

Get Healthy Clean Protein

Steak thai SaladNext to vegetables, the next important make up of a salad is protein. You want to try and get as much as possible. Nine times out of Ten, that means that you will have to add additional servings to your salad. That’s perfectly ok!

The more protein you can get the better. Protein is what will help with your satiety and make you feel full.

The key is to avoid proteins that are breaded or fried. Your best options typically are eggs, grilled chicken, salmon, shrimp, tuna, turkey or steak.

If you’re at a Subway/deli style place and the grilled options are not available, go with the lean lunchmeat options. That means turkey or chicken options for club salads. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than getting fried options.

Remember, to ask for extra servings of protein.

Salad Dressing on The Side

Salad drenched in salad dressingThe biggest destroyer of a healthy salad is salad dressing. If you let the restaurant put their serving size of dressing on your salad, say good bye to all your hard work constructing that healthy salad!

There can be anywhere from 200-2,000 unnecessary calories in restaurants’ salad dressing! That’s why it’s imperative that you ALWAYS ask for your salad dressing onSalad dressing being poured the side.

 

It’s rare for you to need more than 1-2 tablespoons of salad dressing. You can go with either the default salad dressing or pick whatever you choose.

I’m a fan of oil and vinegar on the side. I use to think this was disgusting until I realize how healthy and tasty these two can be.

The downfall of salad dressings is all the omega-6 fats contained in those dressings. You don’t need all that. When you get oil and vinegar what you want is a side of olive oil.

When you control your portion size, you will barely need ½ tablespoon in you salad. Most of the flavor you want will come from the vinegar. I highly recommend you try it.

Avoid Unnecessary Traps

As Captain Akbar from Star Wars said, ”It’s a trap!!

Restaurants know what they are doing and will try to sneak in some healthy looking foods in to your salads that are just killers.

Please avoid the following:

  • Candied fruits
  • Candied nuts
  • Processed cheese
  • Croutons (lots of oil/butter on top of processed bread)
  • Extra sauces

 

Treat Salads as High Protein, High Fat meal

When eating at a restaurant it’s difficult to know exactly what’s in the food. It’s good to always assume that the proteins are cooked in some type of oil. Also you know that the salad dressing will contain more fats/oils in it than anything else.

healthy salad with grilled salmonThat’s why I like to approach the majority of salads as protein plus fats meals. So if I’m on a moderate to high carb meal plan, I know that I should lower my carb intake while eating this salad.

It’s all about energy balance. My favorite plans emphasize proteins. Fats and Carbs are energy sources. Typically when one rises, the other should be lowered like a see saw. You can’t let both continue to rise if your goal is to not gain weight.


That takes care of Part I. In Part II, I will walk you through creating a salad from several restaurant options.