Exercise & Fitness

How Healthy is Your Salad?

Last week I gave a nutrition presentation to a small group of about 20, mostly females. I love going out and getting a group up and moving and then sitting them down to tackle one of the number one problems most adults that are struggling with weight loss face: confusion when it comes to diets and nutrition.

cranberry walnut saladImage via Life’s Ambrosia

I get it! Every week we’re bombarded with a new celebrity diet or recipes for weight loss on the cover of magazines in the checkout line. New diets always claim to be the latest and greatest breakthrough. I love helping people in the community and clients debunk those diet myths and just cut right down to what will work, what won’t and how simple it can be if you plan, know your facts and throw in a little willpower!

This is going to kick off a two-part blog for me all because of one question that stumped me in this presentation. I’ll admit, this group was a slightly different demographic than I’m used to dealing with, and they gave me a run on my knowledge!

So are you wondering what stumped me? Here is the conversation I had with one attendee:

Participant: “I don’t cook.”

Me: “Do you grill? You don’t cook anything?”

Participant: “I’m not even willing to boil water.”

Me: “Okay, what do you eat?”

Participant: “I eat every meal out and I try to do a lot of salads.”

Keep in mind, we had a previous show of hands of who was in attendance for weight loss and every one raised their hand. Wow! I’ve never had anyone that wasn’t willing to throw a chicken breast on their George Foreman or steam a bag of veggies. I’ll be tacking that in my next blog with simple things to cook. Cooking doesn’t mean you have to be a gourmet, but for today let’s focus in on the salads.

Most of us, when trying to eat healthy or slim down, will hit the salad bar on the way home from work, or if dining out opt for one of the salad options on the menu…but is this always a good move? It can be, if you’re careful.

Here are a few popular salads and the nutrition breakdowns from area restaurants. These stats might shock you!

SPIN PIZZA – Spinach Salad, Regular size = 750 cal., 68g fat
ON THE BORDER – Grilled Chicken Fiesta Salad = 1140 cal., 74g fat
PANERA – Roasted Turkey Fuji Apple Salad, Full size = 590 cal., 40g fat

What about salad bars? I love a salad bar as much as the next person, but here are my top culprits to stay away from:

Blue Cheese – ¼ cup = 120 cal., 10g fat
Pepperoni – 28g (very little) = 140 cal., 13g fat
Croutons – 1 cup = 186 cal., 8g fat, 25.5g carbs
Ranch Dressing – 2 TBSP = 148 cal., 15.6g fat
Feta Cheese – 1 cup = 396 cal., 31.9g fat

Eating salads can be a great choice. Just be mindful of what is on the salad. Try to remind yourself that a salad is supposed to be mostly greens and a colorful array of vegetables. Always top your salad with a lean protein like chicken, salmon, shrimp or lean steak. Remember that healthful fats like a little bit of avocado or raw almonds can be great on a salad, and they’ll keep you full longer. The most important thing is to watch on a salad are the extra toppings and dressings! A salad covered in tortilla strips, croutons, candied pecans, lots of cheese or creamy dressings will turn it into more of a “Big Mac” than a salad with the extra bad fats and calories. If there’s a salad on the menu that has candied pecans or some other not great topping ask that it be left off…you can always modify a salad to make it lower in calories and fat.

I hope you’ll remember these tips the next time you’re dining out or maybe you’ll take an extra minute and pull out your smart phone to check the nutrition facts…you could save yourself 2 pounds on the scale or an hour on the treadmill trying to work it off!


 Jill Stoppel has been involved in the fitness industry since 2009 and has been personal training full-time since 2002. She is the sole owner of Excel Wellness Studio, is certified through the American Council of Exercise and holds several certifications in group exercise, spinning and kickboxing. She also maintains memberships, affiliations and mentorships within the major health and fitness organizations in the nation to stay connected to other top professionals. She and her team offer fitness advice to Kansas Citians exclusively for Good Health KC magazine online.