The Dos and Don’ts of the Salad Bar

What is the first meal that comes to mind when you think about eating healthy?  Salad right?  From making your own to fast casual (yup, that means SweetGreen) and even fine dining, salads are the “go to” healthy order for anyone trying to up their nutrition game.  However, not all salads are created equal and if you don’t look out they can become quite decadent real quick!  So how do you prevent your salad from becoming the caloric equivalent of a burger and fries?  Follow these tips below to enjoy all the benefits without the bloat.  You can thank us later!

1.  Follow the Equation

There is a simple equation for building the perfect salad.  It reads like this:

[Base of greens + 3-4 other veggies + 1 protein source + 1 fat source = NUTRITION]

Need an example?  Here is my typical order:
Arugula + tomato + cucumber + hearts of palm + cooked broccoli + salmon (protein)+ avocado (fat) + lemon squeeze and pepper.

2.  Just say no to crunchies

Sure croutons may seem like an obvious one but I also recommend skipping pita chips, tortilla strips, parmesan crisps, fried shallots and nuts/seeds.  Don’t get me wrong, nuts and seeds are totally good for you but chances of you eating them at another point in the day is high and they are calorically dense.  After all, nuts are not vegetables.

3.  Skip the candy, I mean the dried fruit

You know those delicious dried cranberries, raisins, currants, cherries that come in some salads?  Well, they seem innocent cause ya know, its just fruit but they can add 30 grams of sugar (yes that is equal to 7.5 tsps of sugar) to your beautiful salad!  Looking for a sweet twist?  Add fresh fruit instead or go for sweeter veggies like red peppers and carrots.  

4.  Cut the cheese, literally

I know this one hits below the belt but before you leave this post, hear me out.  Cheese is a delicious food, however, it comes with lots of sodium, saturated fat and calories even in a small serving.  It also finds its way into EVERYTHING and I find most people don’t count it since it doesn’t have carbs. I hate to break it to you but cheese counts and it adds up fast!  I recommend enjoying cheese when it is the star of the show but when it is hidden under leaves and dressing. sometimes you don’t even realize you are eating it.

So next time you walk up to that salad bar, think before you order, then enjoy every bite!


Amy Shapiro MS, RD, CDN, is the founder and director of Real Nutrition, a NYC-based private practice dedicated to healthfully and successfully guiding clients to their optimal nutrition, weight, and overall wellness. She is internationally recognized for her individualized, lifestyle-focused approach, which integrates realistic food plans, smart eating habits, and active living. Through encouragement, education, and the right “tricks of the trade,” Amy believes that anyone can achieve their nutritional goals while still enjoying the foods and flavors they crave.