Why Size Matters... For Your Salad

"Bigger is better" seems the operative word in restaurants, and nowhere does size matter more than with those giant kitchen-sink salads.

Click here to see Unhealthy Salad Toppings to Watch Out For

Even though restaurants might put them in the "healthy" section of the menu, many mega-salads come loaded with sugar, damaged fats, and four-digit calorie counts that would require some serious gym time to burn off.

I've done my research here, and the numbers are shocking. Of course Cheesecake Factory, always a winner in the excess-calorie category, would score with its Caesar Salad with Chicken, which packs a massive 1,513 calories.

Not to be outdone, California Pizza Kitchen's Waldorf Chicken Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing delivers about 1,570 calories.

But wait, we have a winner. Chevy's Fresh Mex Tostada Salad carries a whopping 1,720 calories.

How to Order a Smart Salad

If you haven't guessed, restaurant salads can be healthy or fattening depending on how you top them. Do a salad right and you'll get a filling, fat-burning combination of protein, fiber, nutrients, and good fats. Do one incorrectly and you'll have a high-calorie, nutrient-empty fat nightmare.

Don't Be Scared to Take It Off! Remember nothing on that menu is set in stone. I always customize my salad. I ask my server to leave off the sugary, calorie-laden ingredients (be specific here) and substitute healthier ones.

Fresh Is Best. Instead I'll request green vegetables or fresh berries rather than dried fruit. Avocado? Love it: high in fiber, potassium, and good fats. I don't do dairy, but if you want cheese ask for goat or sheep's milk cheese. Put the croutons and crunchy stuff on permanent vacation. Ask for walnuts instead.

Keep Your Dressing Simple. For dressing, ask for an olive oil and vinegar. Restaurants often have imported extra-virgin olive oil. (Ask for it.) If you must try the restaurant's world-famous paprika-ginger dressing, ask for it on the side and sparingly dip your salad in it. Who says fast food can't be healthy? Chipotle is one of my favorite places to customize a healthy salad. I load mine with grilled chicken, avocado, black beans, and salsa.

Do It at Home. I also keep salad ingredients at home to throw together something filling. For instance, I'll throw some leftover roasted vegetables, black beans, and lentils onto spinach leaves. Sometimes I'll even sprinkle organic bacon crumbles. And if I really want to mix it up, I'll throw on some fresh salsa or guacamole. If only most things in life could be so fast, easy, and satisfying!

Click through our slideshow to see what salad toppings to watch out for.

— JJ Virgin, Inspiyr.com


More From Inspiyr.com:

• How to Make Healthy Choices When Eating out

• How to Make Healthy Food Choices

• 6 Reasons Beer Is Good for You


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