Many think of the salad bar as the ultimate low-calorie lunch. Salad bars offer a variety of good food choices that are loaded with vitamins and minerals. But some items at the salad bar may not be as low-calorie or nutritious as you think.

Many think of the salad bar as the ultimate low-calorie lunch. Salad bars offer a variety of good food choices that are loaded with vitamins and minerals. But some items at the salad bar may not be as low-calorie or nutritious as you think.

Most salad bars have a lot going for them. You can start with a salad that contains greens, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli and other green leafy veggies. These items are low in calories, low in fat and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. It’s the heavy toppings that make your salad high calorie.

Most calories at the salad bar are found in the dressings. Many regular salad dressings can have more than 100 calories in just two tablespoons.

Other items that crank up the calories include potato salad, macaroni salad and other creamy salads, croutons, sunflower seeds and bacon bits. If your salad plate piles too high, it might end up having as many calories as a hamburger and fries.

If you head to the salad bar, follow these tips:

If you choose cheese, pick flavorful cheeses like Parmesan or Romano. A small sprinkle of these offers a lot of flavor. Pile on the protein. Top your salad with chicken breast, turkey, egg whites and beans. Build your base with lots of colorful veggies. The more color on your salad, the more nutritious. Skip the salad toppings. Sunflower seeds, croutons, bacon bits and fried noodles add extra calories. Try reduced-fat or fat-free salad dressing to save on calories. Two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar contain only 4 calories. Choose fruit as your side dish instead of potato salad, macaroni salad and coleslaw. Take the dressing on the side and dip your fork. Use fat-free yogurt as a dressing. Don’t make a “repeat offense.” Fill up on one trip to the salad bar. Choose the darkest green lettuce. Spinach, romaine and kale have more nutritional value than iceberg lettuce.




A Little Bite of Everything Salad
Serves 5
1 (5 ounces) package baby romaine lettuce
4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
1 fresh cucumber, peeled, sliced
1 1/2 cup fresh grape tomatoes, halved
4 ounces crumbled, reduced-fat feta cheese
2 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese, divided
10 tablespoons light cucumber ranch dressing, divided

1. Combine lettuce, eggs, cucumber, tomatoes and feta cheese in a large bowl.
2. Evenly distribute salad among five salad bowls.  Top individual salads with 1/2 cup cottage cheese and 2 tablespoons dressing.
Source:  Hy-Vee