Is Your Salad Really Healthy?

As new parents, despite our best efforts, my husband and I often have to turn to takeout during the week for dinner.  We try and make healthy choices, even when we order takeout, usually sticking with places where there are clean, vegetarian or seafood options.  Last week, we had a really tough week with work, and neither of us were up to cooking that much, so we hit the restaurants on 4 different nights. Yikes!

Unlike most American restaurants, when we eat at home, we always try to load up our plate with veggies, whether in the form of a healthy salad or a side, and allow the protein to be a less prominent player on the plate. When you order out, you don’t always have that luxury. American restaurants prominently feature a large piece of protein, whether a steak, poultry or seafood, usually double the recommended serving size for an adult. And the offerings for vegetables are usually pretty meager. One night, we decided to to takeout from Firebirds, a chain restaurant specializing in wood-grilled specialties, like steaks, chicken and seafood. We love their options when it comes to seafood, and we always have them customize our side dishes. Firebirds has a great Wood-Grilled Salmon which can be ordered as a meal with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables or served atop their house salad as a dinner. That night, my husband ordered the meal with the potatoes and vegetables and I opted for the salad topped with the salmon.

So, you think you’re being healthy when your order that salad, right?

Here’s the skinny on our intake that night. My husband’s meal clocked in at a whopping 1139 calories, which included the entire 8 oz piece of salmon, the mashed potatoes (who knows how much butter and cream are in those) and the vegetable medley (cooked in butter, of course). When I saw this, I wasn’t surprised; he got mashed potatoes, after all. What killed me were the totals for my ‘healthy’ salad – 1136 calories, which included a large Mixed Green Salad, a 5 oz  piece of salmon, and the cilantro lime vinaigrette dressing. As usual, I ordered this salad with the dressing on the side, which comprised 400 calories of the salad. 400 calories in the dressing – that is obscene!

So, what’s the take home message? The best way to eat clean – stay at home and cook your own food. Use some of the Focused on Fit recipes to guide your new lifestyle. But if you have to go out, order wisely. Read the nutritional facts of the menu before you order, so that you can make smart choices. When you order, help the chef prepare your food so that it can be the healthiest – ask for no butter, no oil, no added salt, dressing on the side. You can control what you put in your body.