5 tips for making even a salad bar healthier

Staying healthy when eating out is hard. Limiting the number of times you eat out is critical, and this includes those “healthier”restaurants, too.

On a recent trip to Florida, my family and I treated ourselves to a couple of heavier meals out. After spending the first half of our third day in the sun, we didn’t feel like another meal that would just sit in our stomachs. Passing by a Sweet Tomatoes restaurant, I suggested that a salad bar style restaurant might offer some lighter options.

We stopped in, and the kids were amazed at the plethora of garden-fresh choices. I will credit Sweet Tomatoes with placing the greens and non-starchy choices first. It seemed like a dietitian’s dream restaurant … until we reached the end of the salad bar. The greens stopped and the dressings, toppings, soup, bread, pasta and desserts began.

Six or eight soup choices was more than we could handle, but they all sounded good. A buttermilk biscuit with chicken pot pie soup, a corn muffin and chili. Who could resist? Not to mention the double chocolate brownie muffin and macaroni ‘n cheese. A bit of soft serve for dessert (it was frozen yogurt after all) and we were ready to burst.

There is a note of sarcasm here of course, but I’m not kidding. We left the salad bar more full than we would have from Tijuana Flats, a Mexican joint we passed up for the “lighter” restaurant. It was by our own lack of willpower that we overate, but as my husband pointed out, it was better than overeating the high fat Mexican cuisine. True, he had a point. Getting veggies in the kids is always a great success, and I love to see them excited about a variety of colors on their plates.

The takeaway here is that going into a restaurant with plan is always better than going in blindly. Not knowing what our options would be and assuming we would have willpower was a mistake. But it was vacation, and if nothing else, we got a load of vitamins, minerals and fiber. If I had the resources, I’d have no problem opening a salad bar style restaurant in Omaha. Until then, use the following tips to help make your trip even healthier.

Salad Bar Tips:

  1. Drink water.
  2. Fill your plate with greens first, leaving only a small space for toppings and sides.
  3. Limit yourself to two plates, one main course plate and one side plate.
  4. Eat with your non-dominant hand.  This helps you slow down.
  5. Remember that all you can eat doesn’t mean you have to stuff yourself silly. If you slow down and enjoy each forkful, you will find yourself fuller on less food. It takes about twenty minutes for the brain to recognize your true level of fullness.