I was asked, "My job keeps me on the road three to five days a week and I eat most of my meals in restaurants. Can I still get the health benefits that a good salad offers?"
My answer, of course, is Yes! You sure can. In today's calorie conscious world salad bars can be found all over the place, and most restaurants offer healthy salad choices. Find some places you really enjoy and visit them regularly!
It has been known for generations that salads are a healthy and delicious way to eat. But did you ever stop to think that lettuce is one of the few vegetables that is immune to preservation - you can’t freeze it, can it, dry it or pickle it. You must simply eat it fresh!
It dates back to the Ancient Greeks who believed it contained sleep inducing properties and so served it at the end of a meal. However, the dictatorial Emperor Domitian (81-96AD) brought it out at the beginning of his feasts so he could torture his guests by forcing them to stay awake in his presence!
Remember to go easy on the salad dressings as they almost always offer more calories than flavor, or they are so strongly flavored that you can not taste the greens! A traditional Greek salad dressing is one of the most nutritious. Drizzle your salad with extra virgin olive oil and finish with a few squirts of lemon juice and a dash of salt and pepper.
Previous research has showed that carotenoids, such as beta-carotene were more bioavailable, in other words were more easily absorbed by the body when fat was present in the salad. Carotenoids are pigments that are responsible for the bright colors of fruit and vegetables and are associated with a variety of health benefits such as protection from cancer and heart disease and promotion of eye health.
While all fats promoted absorption of the carotenoids, the salad dressing that contained the monounsaturated fat (the main type of fatty acids in olive oil) promoted the equivalent carotenoid absorption at 3 grams of fat as it did 20 grams. In other words, it required the least amount of fat to get the most carotenoid absorption, while saturated fat and polyunsaturated fat dressings required higher amounts of fat to get the same benefit. This makes monounsaturated fat such as olive oil, a great choice for those watching their fat or calorie intake.
The important thing to remember is to enclude lots of greens in you diet and going to a salad bar is a great way to enjoy a wide mix of ingredients that you do not often grow at home. Just try to avoid that ice cream and cookie area all salad bars seem to have!