During the summer lots of space in newspaper food pages is devoted the food of the season--salads. They are lauded for their ease of preparation. They free the cook for activities out of doors, and a hot stove is not required in most cases. Whether fruit, vegetables, rice, poultry, meat or fish is chosen as the main ingredient, a salad is a healthful foundation upon which to build a menu. Even fast-food restaurants have capitalized on their popularity by serving packaged salads as well as offering salad bars as alternatives to hamburgers, French fries and the like.
People who opt for the salad bar instead of a cheeseburger at the local fast-food eatery may not be doing themselves any favor, however, depending upon the ingredients chosen to embellish their salad greens, slivered meat or fresh fruits and vegetables.
Consider the salad bar: Individual containers provide the basic salad building blocks--a variety of lettuces among which fresh spinach leaves are often included; mushrooms; broccoli; shredded carrots, cabbage and beets; chopped tomatoes, celery, green pepper and onions; all innocent enough--calorically speaking--but when teamed with some of the more fatty items like shredded cheese, chopped hard-cooked eggs, sliced avocado, crumbled fried bacon and croutons, they can wreak havoc.
In addition to these high-fat items, it's not unusual to add several tablespoons of dressing--each weighing in at more than 50 calories per tablespoon--so it's easy to see how an innocent trip to the salad bar can get out of hand.
Here's an example. Build a typical raw vegetable salad using fresh salad greens, shredded carrots and red cabbage, mushrooms, green peppers, onions and broccoli--each possessing relatively few calories individually. Then add any one of the following ingredients and see how the total adds up.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Nutritive Value of American Foods (Handbook 456), one ounce of shredded Cheddar cheese contains 113 calories; one-quarter cup of avocado cubes has about 73 calories; one medium slice of fried bacon has 43 calories, and one medium hard-cooked egg, chopped, has 72 calories.
Then, add the corresponding number of calories per tablespoon for the type of dressing chosen: blue cheese, 76; French, 66, Italian, 83, and Thousand Island, 80, and the calorie count can be more than 450, whereas a McDonald's Quarter Pounder contains about 418 calories. For salads other than fresh vegetable in which mayonnaise is used as a binder, add 101 calories per tablespoon.
Of course, the salad bar can be a healthful alternative to fast food when some careful choices are made. When reduced-calorie dressings aren't available, try lemon juice and freshly ground pepper on salads or use limited amounts of oil-based dressings. Avoid high-fat garnishes such as those mentioned or use them sparingly perhaps by the teaspoon.
For home use, here are a few low-fat alternatives to popular salad dressings.
LEMON-YOGURT DRESSING FOR FRESH FRUITS
1 tablespoon oil
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup lemon low-fat yogurt
1 tablespoon dry Sherry
2 teaspoons honey
Combine oil and allspice in small container. Set aside 10 minutes for flavors to develop. Add yogurt, Sherry and honey. Mix well and refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve. Makes 8 servings, 2 tablespoons each.
PER SERVING: 52 calories; 1 gm protein; 7 gm carbohydrate; 2 gm fat; 17 mg sodium; 58 mg potassium.
Protein 02% Riboflavin 03% Vitamin A 00% Niacin 00% Vitamin C 00% Calcium 04% Thiamine 01% Iron 00%
LOW-CALORIE FRENCH DRESSING
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed tomato soup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
1 bay leaf, crushed
6 tablespoons lemon juice
Combine garlic, tomato soup, salt, oregano, bay leaf and lemon juice in jar. Mix well and refrigerate several hours to blend flavors. Makes 1 3/4 cups, 14 servings, 2 tablespoons each.
PER SERVING: 18 calories; 0 gm protein; 3 gm carbohydrate; 0 gm fat; 249 mg sodium; 51 mg potassium.
Protein 01% Riboflavin 00% Vitamin A 04% Niacin 01% Vitamin C 09% Calcium 00% Thiamine 01% Iron 01%
LOW-CALORIE BLUE CHEESE DRESSING
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon onion salt
1/3 cup water
2 ounces blue cheese
Combine cottage cheese, lemon juice, salt and water in blender or food processor container and blend until smooth and creamy. Add blue cheese and blend until nearly smooth. Store, covered, in refrigerator. Will keep up to 5 days. Makes 1 1/2 cups, 12 servings, 2 tablespoons each.
PER SERVING: 29 calories; 3 gm protein; 1 gm carbohydrate; 1 gm fat; 102 mg sodium; 18 mg potassium.
Protein 05% Riboflavin 04% Vitamin A 01% Niacin 00% Vitamin C 02% Calcium 03% Thiamine 00% Iron 00%
YOGURT SALAD DRESSING
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
Combine yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir gently to blend (do not beat or yogurt will curdle). Makes 1 cup, 8 servings, 2 tablespoons each.
PER SERVING: 16 calories; 1 gm protein; 2 gm carbohydrate; 1 gm fat; 113 mg sodium; 47 mg potassium.
Protein 02% Riboflavin 03% Vitamin A 00% Niacin 00% Vitamin C 01% Calcium 00% Thiamine 01% Iron 00%