Oh Salad, how did it ever come to this? Experts say that eating a salad every day may be one of the healthiest eating habits to adopt, but did they know what kind of beasts are being created in the name of the salad? It’s fascinating how language shapes our perceptions. Even though I spend much of my life exploring food and decoding nutrition, I am still sometimes swayed by the subtle messaging that says that anything called a “salad,” regardless of its reckless ingredients, is still a healthy choice! Restaurant menu-development teams are definitely on to this phenomenon.
So, what are the problems with this collection of shocking salads found on the menus of our nation’s most popular restaurants? My biggest gripe is the sky-high calories, simply for their shock value–followed by the seriously exuberant sodium levels, and finishing up with some pretty surprising fat counts.
In the new set of Dietary Guidelines proposed for the 2010 USDA Food Pyramid, the average recommended daily calorie intake is 2100, and total fat intake should be 20 to 35 percent of your total daily calories. (At 9 calories per gram of fat, 30 percent would roughly equal about 70 grams of total fat daily for a 2100-calorie diet.) The crazy thing here is sodium: The new guidelines reduced the recommended amount of salt healthy people should consume to 1,500 milligrams (mg), from the previous amount of 2,300 mg. Each one of these salads has more than the daily recommended level of sodium, some of them have more than double that. Salty!
Even so, aside from all the ills of these non-salad salads, I’ll still opt for the salad more than not. Even though most of those listed here have similar calorie counts to a burger and fries (or two), the saturated fat is generally less, and you do get the benefit of the vegetables. Just remember that any of these salads should be your big meal of the day, and forget about eating another grain of salt until tomorrow (or the day after).