Who ever thought you could do damage at the salad bar? Well, I didn't!
Hello, Miracle Noodle Fans! It's Teri, and I am back with another bit of information gathered from personal experience.
Not All Salad Bars are Created Equal
I want to address that not all salad bars are created equal. Realize it might be a "salad" bar vs. an actual salad bar. Many restaurants say they have a “salad bar” because they have iceberg lettuce, carrots, pickles, and celery. These establishments may also have pasta salads drenched in dressing, fried chicken, and pizza on them. Talk about mixed messages!
Back in 2012 or so, I used to go to our salad bar at our local grocery store and load up, thinking I could do no damage there. I was training for long-distance triathlons and figured I burned a ton of calories and could justify whatever amounts of what I perceived as healthy food to consume. I loaded up plate after plate with spinach, marinated mushrooms, cottage cheese, sunflower seeds, eggs, grilled chicken, soup, and beet salad. Who cares? It's healthy, RIGHT?
Well, that all depends on the amount you are shoveling in. There were other things in the salad bar I would indulge in as well, like soups, crackers, fruit and an Oreo fluff dessert that I LOVED! I ran 10 miles, so who cares?!
I should have cared.
No one told me how to pace myself. No one told me that too much of even just the healthy items on my plate was too much. No one filled me in on portion sizes, or what a healthy distribution of carbs to protein to fat is. No one told me how to combine foods on my plate so it wouldn’t go straight to my fat stores. Truthfully, how many of us do?
The Right Way to Approach the Salad Bar
First, I'm going to give you some guidance on how to approach the salad bar. Second, I will fill you in on how to make your own salad at home that's tasty and filling.
Here's what you should do to make sure you don't fall prey to the salad bar:
Don't go when you are overly hungry to any food bar of any type.
It's like going to the grocery store when you are hungry or deciding after midnight. Nothing good will come of it. You are susceptible to making unwise decisions due to cravings and hunger. Just. Don't.
Really examine how much you need.
Is 50% protein, 30% complex carbs, and 20% fats on your plate? For a majority of the populations, this is considered balanced proportions.
How can you tell? There's an easy way. It's called palm-fist-fist. I use this today when I go out to eat. A palm-sized portion of protein, a fist size of complex carbs, and a fist full of greens. There you go.
For fats, you can sprinkle on a handful of nuts or seeds. No complex carbs like beans, chickpeas, or potatoes (not covered in who-knows-what that sauce is)? That's okay. You can double up on the veg, or have a cup of soup, or get a serving of fruit.
I'm not saying you can't enjoy other things; I just want you to be mindful.
Other healthy substitutions you can do at the salad bar:
Instead of dressing, go for vinegar or salsa. Cottage cheese in a small amount works as well. Just avoid drenching your salad in it.
Go for lean meat options if available like tuna, tofu, turkey or chicken.
Grab leafy greens such as spinach, kale, or spring greens mix. Iceberg lettuce has practically no nutrients. Go for the darker greens.
When picking a soup, avoid cream based (unless you're doing a keto thing).
Avoid the mayo-based sides and pastas. These are usually packed with calories.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. You can ask the staff or your server what is in the food if there are unidentifiable components.
Eat. Slow. Slow. Your. Roll.
This is something I have to remind myself. It takes about 20 minutes for your body to say "Hey, that's enough!" so take your time. It's not a race. If you are with people, have a conversation. If alone, bring a book or the newspaper. Also, after taking a bite, set down your fork/spoon and wait until you have fully consumed your morsel before taking the next serving.
Drink water. Stay hydrated.
A lot of the time your body will send a hunger signal when you are dehydrated. Take a sip of water after each bite.
Make Your Own Salad at Home
You read right! You can have a create-your-own salad bar waiting for you every night in your fridge, and you can control what's in it. The first step is making a list, and sticking to that list when you are at the store.
Here are some healthy suggestions:
Note: Your body will absorb calcium from kale, but not from spinach. If you want more calcium in your diet, reach for the kale.
Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries
Olives (just a few)
Avocado (half of one will do per salad)
Cheese (go for the hard cheeses. These contain healthy fats)
Lean meats such as chicken, turkey, tuna, shrimp
Tofu: The firmer, the higher protein amount. There is a small carb count of 2 to 3 grams per 3 oz. Protein, depending on brand and firmness, can be around 11 grams.
Seitan, and tempeh: Seitan and tempeh have a 2:1 protein to carb ratio. Seitan has 15 grams of protein per serving with about 8 grams of carbs. Tempeh per serving usually is 30 grams of protein and 15 grams of carbs.
Black Beans: While mostly a carb, they have a good amount of protein. That being said, 172 grams (1 cup) is only 15 grams of protein and 42 grams of carbs, so be aware if you are carb-conscious.
Edamame: This is a 1:1 ratio practically. It's 17 grams of protein and 15 grams of carb per serving and 8 grams of fat per 155 grams/cup.
There are lots of ways to make a tasty salad. Last but not least, you can add in any of our noodle or rice varieties for extra fiber that will keep you full and add a fun texture and bulk to your plate. I frequently will add the garlic and herb noodles, our spinach noodles, or our Miracle Rice into my kale salad.
Dear reader, as we finish out today, please remember this: You can eat healthy and unhealthy no matter what food is presented to you. It's up to you to make good decisions when at the salad bar, at the grocery store, out to eat, and in your home. As always, I am here and happy to talk with you. Leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Teri Market is a Certified Personal Trainer, Women's Physique Competitor, and Powerlifter that holds a Diploma in Nutrition. She also is the Social Media Manager and a Content Creator for Miracle Noodle. Teri can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest at @fcpchick.