Think that plate of tossed greens with cherry vinaigrette and goat cheese from your favorite restaurant is the key to healthy weight loss? Let the nutritionists be the judge.
In an age when cutting calories and monitoring fat content is common, many people are wary of dining out. Temptation lurks with every course, and even the smallest plate can easily spoil a day of healthy eating. Most diners fall victim to saturated fat and hidden cholesterol before their entrées arrive.
To help us make the best choices for our health and waistline, we enlisted three nutrition professionals to examine salads from five local restaurants. Regina Johnston of Christiana Care Hospital and Alison Massey and Sheila Simkaitis of Bayhealth Medical Center were glad to come to our nutritional rescue.
Harry’s Seafood Grill, Wilmington
At Harry’s Seafood Grill in Wilmington, the Colossal Crabmeat salad is a menu standout. The salad, which contains snow pea shoots, napa cabbage, julienne carrots, cilantro and fresh ginger, is finished with soy-lime vinaigrette. The star of this salad however, is the colossal crab meat, which is twice the size of traditional jumbo-lump.
“This salad is an excellent source of lean protein, due to the crab,” says Simkaitis. Just watch out for a heaping portion, which can tack on extra calories and cholesterol. “If it looks like more than 3-4 ounces (the size of a deck of playing cards), take some home for leftovers,” she advises.
According to Harry’s chef Kate Applebaum, the ginger, which is dipped in simple syrup and toasted to become crystallized, is what makes this salad so unique. “The more variety in the salad the better because you’re reaping vitamin, mineral and antioxidant benefits, Massey says. Ginger and fresh herbs like cilantro not only taste good, but are a great way to add flavor to a meal without adding fat, calories or salt.
Michele’s Restaurant, Dover
At Michele’s Restaurant in the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, the Pacific Rim salad is one of many eclectic options. Canton pancit noodles, which are much like lo-mein, are added to baby greens, daikon threads and shaved onion before being tossed in sesame ginger vinaigrette.
“This salad is different due to the pickled ginger used in the dressing,” says chef Tara Kazamir. “It’s a good alternative to your basic green salad.”
Though not always great for your breath, onions are worth including in your diet.
“Like garlic, onions contain sulfides, which may reduce the risk of cancer and lower low-density lipoprotein—or bad cholesterol,” Massey says. Says Johnston, “The noodles may be high in fat if they are tossed in oil but, overall, this salad sounds healthy and tasty.”
Home Grown Café, Newark
The Thai Chicken Salad is a customer favorite at the Home Grown Café in Newark. The salad combines mixed field greens, baby corn, sliced red pepper as well as daikon radish, which chef Paul Egnor says, “is something I don’t see used very much. It’s a unique salad when it all comes together.”
The salad is served with marinated chicken, but for those who opt to go meatless, tofu or homemade vegetarian chicken can be substituted for the real thing.
The variety of vegetables lend “color, flavor, crunch and nutrients,” Massey says. Massey and Simkaitis applaud the addition of tofu. The primary ingredient in tofu is soy, which has been touted by the American Heart Association as key in reducing cholesterol. Be wary, however, of peanut-based dressings like the one used on this dish, which tend to be high in fat.
Krazy Kat’s, Montchanin
Krazy Kat’s in Montchanin is known for its culinary creativity, exemplified in the Organic Arugula and Prosciutto salad. Chef Donny Merril credits springtime as his inspiration behind this salad.
“I wanted to create a dish which would introduce the warm weather,” he says. The salad is a blend of organic arugula, dried cranberries, apple butter brioche and prosciutto accompanied by tangerine-vanilla vinaigrette.
The dried cranberries bring a healthful addition to the table, providing an excellent source of dietary fiber. “A half cup of dried cranberries equals one serving,” says Massey, making it simple to reach the recommended daily intake of fruit.
All three dietitians suggest eating fatty, salty prosciutto in moderation, especially if you are limiting your sodium intake. Simkaitis says that, though prosciutto is a tasty addition to any salad, “It should be enjoyed occasionally.”
Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant Newark and Wilmington
At Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant in Newark and Wilmington, romaine, frisée, tomatoes, grilled peppers, onions and mushrooms are coupled with grated manchego cheese to create the Santa Cruz Salad.
Spanish in origin, manchego is a semi-firm, golden colored cheese made from sheep’s milk. According to manager Michael Rivera, “What makes this salad interesting is all the contrast.” The salad is tossed with spicy garlic vinaigrette, “which really pulls everything together,” he says.
In addition to the nutrients obtained from the leafy greens, tomatoes provide an abundance of lycopene, “which is a powerful antioxidant that may reduce the risk of certain cancers,” Massey says. Simkaitis says don’t leave out the mushrooms. In fact, you should eat them often. “They are a source of many essential nutrients and vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium,” to help maintain healthy bone density.
The aging process involved in producing the manchego reduces lactose, making it an optimal source of calcium for those who are lactose intolerant. Most cheeses are fatty, however, so try to ask for a smaller amount or have it put on the side. Like the aforementioned salads, the oil and vinegar dressing is high in monounsaturated fat—the heart healthy kind. Though it’s a superior alternative to creamy dressings, you should still exercise portion control by requesting dressing on the side.