If you’re trying to eat more healthfully, but you still want to enjoy a meal out, ordering a salad is the ideal option, right?

Not so fast. While a salad can certainly be a healthy, satisfying option, there are plenty on the menu that can actually short-circuit your wellness goals. The idea of a salad may sound lighter than a burger, but it’s not always the case. Many restaurant salads are loaded with calories, fat (especially saturated fat) and sodium. Some salads contain more than a day’s worth of sodium (2,300 mg), and more fat than a fast food double burger with cheese.

In order to enjoy a restaurant salad without busting your health budget, try to find one that is moderate in calories, fat and sodium, and rich in fiber and protein – nutrients that will help you feel satisfied. Don’t be afraid to make special alterations on your order. Request your salad sans the high-fat, salty ingredients like creamy dressings, cheese, bacon and fried chicken. And include fiber- and/or protein-rich ingredients, such as beans, grilled chicken, whole grains and nuts.

Helpful Hints

Keep these ideas in mind when ordering a salad for your meal.

  • Cut it in half. Choose half-size salads if available, or eat half of your full-size salad and bring the rest home for another meal.
  • Fat check. Skip the saturated fat- and sodium-filled toppings, like croutons, bacon and creamy dressing. Instead, opt for healthy fats in vinaigrettes, an avocado slice and a sprinkling of walnuts or sunflower seeds.
  • Dressing on the side. Yes, it’s an oft-heard tip, but it works. Ordering the dressing on the side allows you to drizzle on a small amount, or dip each bite for just a bit of flavor vs. drenching the entire salad.

Environmental Nutrition is the award-winning independent newsletter written by nutrition experts dedicated to providing readers up-to-date, accurate information about health and nutrition in clear, concise English. For more information, visit www.environmentalnutrition.com.