The Salad Greens Mistake

What You Didn't Know

The salad greens mistakes you probably aren't aware of.

You know a lot about staying healthy, right?

We're supposed to watch our saturated fat intake and of course eat lots of super foods.

This is why you usually grab take-out veggies for lunch or dinner (even when the kids get burgers).

Good for you!

Or is it...good for you?

Tread carefully though, the very word makes people think they're eating something healthy, low fat, but the truth is, a lot of take-out and restaurant salads are basically "burgers-in-a-bowl".

We've analyzed the nutritional information for 34 salads available at some of the largest fast-food and sandwich chains.

Just two, the Au Bon Pain Garden Variety with fat free raspberry vinaigrette and the Subway Veggie Delite with fat free Italian dressing and no cheese, got a "top" rating for being high in fiber and low in saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and calories, according to the nutritional guidelines.

Our "burger in a bowl" analogy is no exaggeration as the nutritional facts support it.

Get this, McDonald's Crispy Chicken Bacon Ranch with Newman's Own Ranch Dressing sounds tasty, but actually has more calories, fat, and saturated fat than a Big Mac.

640 calories and 49 g. of fat versus the Big Mac at 600 calories and 33 g. of fat.

Wow!

Other fast-food varieties are almost as sad.

Only about 10 percent of your diet should come from saturated fat.

So, for a person who is eating, say, 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day, these contain all the saturated fat they should have...in an entire day.

And most fast food menageries contain barely any fiber (ie. government guidelines say most women should have 25 to 35 g. a day).

Many of these have no beans and actually very few vegetables.

The reality is that if you have one of these take-outs for lunch, your other meals are going to have to be bran cereal to make up for the shortfall of fiber.

Taco Bell's with salsa was the clear winner in the fiber category with 13 g.

Before you grab the car keys, hold on, because with 42 g. of fat and close to the total amount of sodium you should allow, again, in an entire day (1,670 mg, the total recommended daily amount is 2,400 mg.), this take-out order was rated unacceptable.

Here's how you can have your greens and eat them too.

When you order the above, get it without the taco shell, you'll lower your fat intake from 51 to 21 g., and the sodium drops to 1,400 mg.

So don't scratch take-out off your menu yet, just apply a few common sense rules before you order.

As an example, avoid high fat add-ons, such as sour cream, extra cheese, croutons, bacon bits, and high fat dressings, including Caesar and Ranch.

Go for menu items that aren't just low fat and a fiber-less mound of iceberg lettuce dotted with a few carrot and red cabbage shavings.

Choose your salad, then ask for the low-cal and fat free dressing on the side.

It's always best to plan ahead.

Many fast food chains provide "online" nutritional information for all their fare, so you can scope out the healthiest salads before you head out for lunch.

Now, what about those pre-packaged types that are proliferating in super markets these days?

Well, here are six "tips" to help you navigate that landscape.

When based on greens, particularly dark leafy varieties such as spinach and kale, can be a good way to get your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vegetables.

However, the contents of some can sometimes be a source of E. coli and salmonella.

Help minimize your risk of exposure to pathogens with these steps:

Always rinse packaged greens, even if the package states “pre-washed.”

Greens that look fresh, especially in plastic, can still harbor bacteria.

Loose and unpacked greens should be washed three times under cold, running water to remove sand, dirt and any bacteria that may be present.

Don't purchase greens that are past their “best-if-used-by” date.

All vegetables and yes, fruits as well, should be scrubbed under cold, running water before being used.

Don't put raw bean sprouts or alfalfa sprouts in your salad as the risk of toxins, E. coli or salmonella from these sources is high.

If you're using tofu in your green creation, purchase it in packaged form only, avoid buying it in bulk out of open barrels.

And at the salad bar make sure that the vegetables are well chilled (kept over ice) and that the food is properly shielded with a sneeze guard or hood.

And I know this sounds obvious but, avoid any items that look old or dried out.

Why waste your money!

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