Salads & Specialty Menu Items: You Could have had a burger

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When people tell me about the scrumptious “specialty” salad they just had for lunch from popular food chains, I often tell them that they probably could have had a salad.  Yes, I know that is a bit of a Debbie Downer statement, since they are usually so proud that they thought they were being healthy by choosing a salad.  It’s not that I want to burst their bubble, I just want them to enjoy their meal.  You are more likely to stick to something if you are not “forcing” yourself to do something and if you actually enjoy it.  There aren’t too many places around that prepare truly healthy fast food.  The reality is that if you didn’t actually prepare it yourself, you are not truly able to control how it is prepared and what goes into it.  Sure, you can customize your order slightly by ordering an item baked instead of fried, etc, but you can’t control the sodium content, what oil it’s basted with, butter quantity, etc.  The way I look at it is this, if I’m going to eat “out”, it’s not going to be healthier than eating at home or as healthy as I usually eat so I am going to enjoy it and the social aspect of it.  Yes, I will make the healthiest choice I can, but I am not going to suffer through eating a salad I don’t really want that is just as high in calories and fat as the burger and fries that I crave.

Let’s face it, fat tastes good and in order for restaurants to get people to eat their “healthy” options, they have to taste good as well.  They use “healthy” options as a way to lure you in and make you feel better about eating at their establishment.  They’ve banished the MSG’s and Transfat and now you can eat with them again.  The problem is that most of the specialty items and salads are laden with extra calories and fat to get it to appeal to your taste buds.  Common ingredients that add calories and fat to the simple lettuce, tomatoes and onions are cheese, fried meats or sautéed meats (even if it’s grilled, it is probably high in sodium), croutons, tortilla strips, processed guacamole (not fresh), and salad dressing.  Salad dressing alone can be a big killer.  Most people use more than the recommended serving size (sometimes those packets count as two servings).  Don’t let fat free fool you either.  Fat free is ok, but you still have to eat it in moderation just like anything else.  If you are doubling the serving just because it’s fat free, then you could have had one serving of the better tasting fat one.  It cancels out if you eat more than the recommended serving size.

Just last week I went to an Atlanta Bread Company after an appointment.  I was hungry and didn’t have my usual snacks in my purse to last me until I could get home.  As I gazed at the menu, I considered getting the California Avocado sandwich listed under the specialty menu.  I reasoned that it was vegetarian and only contained veggies so it should be ok.  Then I saw that it came with some sort of special dill sauce on it.  Because I did not know what was in this sauce, I chose the Turkey Sandwich off of the regular menu.  It was cheaper too.  When I got home, I looked them both up and here is the comparison:

California Avocado Sandwich
Calories: 930
Calories from Fat: 450
Sodium: 1120 mg
Carbs: 98 g
Sugar: 13g

Turkey Sandwich on Nine Grain
Calories: 370
Calories from Fat: 50
Sodium: 1240 mg
Carbs: 50 g
Sugar: 7g

Although the sodium content was still a little off the chain, I’m glad I chose the cheaper turkey sandwich from the “regular” menu.

On the rare occasion that I eat fast food, I eat at Wendy’s.  I usually get the spicy chicken sandwich and a value fry.  I don’t save much by not purchasing the meal, but I don’t drink sodas and I try to stay away from sugar drinks.  I love sweet tea and by not purchasing the meal, I don’t tempt myself to take a few sips of the huge drink I never finish anyway.  Here is a comparison of my usual meal with one of the new specialty salads:

Spicy Chicken Sandwich
Calories: 480
Sodium: 1370 mg
Carbs: 56 g
Sugar: 7 g

Value Fries
Calories: 230
Sodium: 250 mg
Carbs: 30 g
Sugar: 0 g

The total for this meal is:
Calories: 710
Sodium: 1620 mg
Carbs: 86 g
Sugar: 7 g

Garden Sensations® Baja Salad (with seasoned tortilla strips and Creamy Red Jalapeno Dressing)
Calories: 730
Sodium: 2,025 mg
Carbs: 47 g
Sugar: 14 g

As you can see, this particular salad is actually worse for me than my fried chicken sandwich and fries.  So, take this as a lesson to enjoy your food and really look at what comes on those “specialty” items.

Debbie Downer signing out. :)

Freelance Graphic Designer, Lifestyle Blogger, Natural Hair Enthusiast and Fitness Convert...yeah, I wear a lot of hats. :)