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