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Sobering Salads


The other evening my daughter came home after dining out with a group of friends. When I asked what she had for dinner, she reported, a hint of virtue in her tone, that she'd had a salad. A buffalo chicken salad.

Oh, dear. Was it time to have The Talk?

No, not that Talk. The one about how, if she'd been looking for a healthful meal, she might have done better with a couple of slices of pizza instead.

That's one of the key messages in the latest entry in the Eat This, Not That! series of food-comparison books written by Men's Health editors David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding, about which I write in this week's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column. The fourth book features big sections on the best and worst salads in America. It's illuminating stuff, not so much the specific salads that are highlighted but the warning signs the authors teach us to watch out for.

For instance, where we unsuspecting diners see "chicken" and may think "healthful," ETNT sees breading, deep-frying and dousing in blue-cheese dressing, which all add tons of calories and fat grams. A buffalo chicken salad from Chili's that's listed in the book contains 1,070 calories and 77 grams of fat -- not to mention an ungodly amount of sodium. (You can read more about salads to eat and avoid here.)

Of course, not every meal has to be the most healthful one, and I can't begrudge my kid's having chosen the salad she did -- especially because I've enjoyed the same one many a time. But while she ordered it thinking it was a better food option than pizza, I at least will order it with my eyes wide open. That knowledge always prompts me to save at least half the salad for another meal.

I didn't want to rain on my daughter's parade, so I didn't have The Talk. But the new Eat This, Not That! book may mysteriously materialize on her nightstand, with a bookmark in the salad section.

What would you have done? What are the best, and worst, salad concoctions you have sampled?

And if you want more from David Zinczenko, he'll be guest blogging for The Checkup in a few weeks, as will Cristin Dillon-Jones, author of Self magazine's Eat Like Me blog.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  July 28, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Nutrition and Fitness  
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Comments

This is probably the best argument for more nutritional information on restaurant menus. I very frequently used to order a salad or soup, thinking that I was being healthier. Then one evening at a restaurant, I pulled up their menu information on my blackberry, and discovered that my "virtuous" salad option had 1200 calories in it (about 300 more than the pizza I wanted)!! And then I saw a chef make the best soup I ever tasted -- which, alas, started with cooking down a gallon of cream. . . .

So I now figure, if I'm out at a restaurant and I really want X, I might as well just go ahead and get X, but eat only half. I see no point in getting something that doesn't taste as good or satisfy the craving, if it's not going to be any better for me. And if I do want to eat lighter, I will get a plain salad or one with something grilled on top (and dressing on the side).

Posted by: laura33 | July 28, 2009 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Interesting how the assumption is that the diner will automatically eat the entire portion, or dump half a kilo of ranch dressing on the salad.

Everything in moderation. Period.

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Posted by: healthpain | July 28, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Rule of thumb: if you're eating in a restaurant, you're eating stuff that's TERRIBLE for you. Act accordingly, preferably by not eating restaurant food at all.

Restaurants will add obscene quantities of fat, salt, and/or sugar to *everything* in order to make it "taste good." In that respect, their morality resembles that of a drug dealer rather than that of a doctor.

Posted by: DupontJay | July 28, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

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