When most people I talk to think of salad bars, they seem to immediately get a bad taste in their mouths. I think most people imagine old food lying out in the air all day and people walking by coughing and spreading germs. I am sure that some get this idea because there are actually salad bars like this that exist. However, there are scores of salad bars that are NOT like this.
The most important thing to remember as you make your way through the line is that the best choices are the least processed items. This means any undressed vegetable or fruit is a good pick. Load up on these items; let them form the large base of your salad. On the other hand, creamy dishes like coleslaw and pasta salad are laced with excess calories and fat, so keep these portions small.
Here are some great tips you can use to safely navigate the salad bar without spending too much.
1. Be Wary of the Extras (Bacon Bits, Croutons, Chinese Noodles)
They're salty, they're crunchy, they're more like pretzels than vegetables. Of the three, the croutons are best. Ten croutons add up to about 50 calories and 2 grams of fat. Chinese noodles tend to be greasier. And bacon bits? Well, they're bacon, and we all know how healthy (or UNhealthy) that is.
2. Steer Clear of the Dressing
Low-fat dressing isn't low-cal, so go easy on it. A better bet? Canola oil and red wine vinegar. The oil contains omega-3 fatty acids to reduce your risk of heart-disease. The vinegar adds flavonoids to keep your blood flowing smoothly.
3. Step Away From the Bread
Many salad bars offer bread, rolls and/or crackers for the taking. Don't fall prey to endless servings, and keep to one portion, if any. As a diabetic, keeping these types of carbs out of our diet is very important.
4. Add Lean Protein
Grilled chicken, baked tofu, beans, tuna and boiled eggs are great sources of lean protein. They're much healthier than fried or battered meats, cheese, or tuna or chicken salads covered in mayonnaise. Don't forget to measure out your protein to avoid overdoing it on the calorie front.
5. Go for Fresh Instead of Dried Fruits
Dried cranberries and raisins are popular salad toppings. But if you opt for fresh fruit instead, you'll be getting more fiber, less sugar and more crunch, which translates to a healthier, more filling salad.