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A cruise to the salad bar could be a high-fat trip

July 01, 1997|By Lynn F. Little

A cruise to the salad bar could be a high-fat trip

"I'm on a diet, so I'll just have the salad bar." How often have you made that remark in a restaurant? Unfortunately, you can go off your diet at a salad bar just as easily as you can with the regular menu. Depending on the choices you make, a 4-cup salad bowl may contain less than 100 calories or more than 1,000 calories!

Lettuce is one of the lowest caloric choices at the salad bar. At 5 to 10 calories per cup, it's also the primary reason for salad bar's low-calorie image. Shredded cabbage or spinach provide more vitamin C than lettuce for only 10 to 15 calories per cup.

Most other plain, raw vegetables also are low in calories. For example, 6 to 8 cucumber or celery slices contain approximately 5 calories per one-half cup. One-half cup of carrot slices or bean sprouts provides about 15 calories. These vegetables are low in calories, high in fiber and are nutrient-dense sources of vitamins A and C.

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If you filled your 4-cup salad bowl with combination of these ingredients, your entire dish would contain less than 100 calories.

Most salad bars offer a variety of macaroni, bean and potato salads to tempt the palate. These provide 120 to 180 calories per one-half cup serving. Gelatin-type fruit salads at 120 to 150 calories per cup often are added for color. Some salad bars offer applesauce, fruit cocktail or other canned fruits. One-half cup of any of these provides approximately 50 calories.

Don't forget the kidney or garbanzo beans. While they add 120 calories per one-half cup, they complement the nutritional quality of your salad by adding protein, B-vitamins and iron. Cottage cheese or grated cheese, if included, also are good sources of protein, calcium and riboflavin. Cottage cheese is generally lower in calories than hard cheeses (120 calories per one-half cup compared with approximately 225 calories per one-half cup of shredded Cheddar or Swiss cheese). As for grated Parmesan cheese, it contains approximately 20 calories per tablespoon.

The real clincher at the salad bar is the 6 to 8 bins of salad dressing. If you choose regular varieties, they add almost 240 calories per 3-tablespoon scoop whether you select blue cheese, Roquefort, Italian, Russian or Thousand Island.

French runs slightly less at 200 calories per scoop and mayonnaise is higher at 300 calories per scoop. If you regard one scoop as just a dip in the bucket and drizzle two or three over your salad, the calories, most of which come from fat, add up fast. For fewer calories, look for dressings labeled low or reduced calorie.

The final touch comes with croutons or bits of bacon sprinkled on top - both provide considerable calories. Each package of crackers adds another 40 to 60 calories.

Salad bars can be a low-calorie choice, but only if you go easy on creamy salads, salad dressings and condiments. The choice is up to you.

The Maryland Cooperative Extension Service's programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

Lynn F. Little is an extension educator, family and consumer sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Maryland.

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