Ditch the Salad Bar

Eat better. That’s what we all plan to do at the start of every year after coming off the holiday binge on all things delicious. If we could just eat better, then we might fit into that pair of jeans we’ve been keeping around just in case. And with all that extra energy we might even get around to finishing those Pinterest projects — all 3,674 of them.

Problem is, what exactly is healthier? Sure, cut back on the fast food, eat less sugar and fried food, but what do you eat instead? Most people head for the holy grail of healthiness: the salad bar. And while the salad bar may appear to be the mecca of healthy eating, I encourage you to look closer and think again.

What is the salad bar’s biggest offense? Lurking among all that beautiful vegetable goodness is that last little thing you drizzle on the salad: the dressing. The problem with dressing? No, it’s not the calories; it’s the soybean oil, which is the majority of practically every commercial salad dressing on the face of the earth. Soy — that’s healthy, right? Well, not exactly. Over 85 percent of the soy grown in the United States is a genetically modified organism (GMO) and new studies have shown that soybean oil likely contributes to other problems like diabetes and heart disease when compared to other dietary oils.

Another thing that can make your salad a little healthier is to go organic.  Whenever possible, buy organic produce when it is available and your budget allows. The next best thing is to peel items like apples and peaches. And if nothing else, wash your produce thoroughly with vinegar and running water to remove as much residue as possible.

So, is there any saving grace for salad? If salad’s not healthy, then what is? Salad can be a very healthy choice, if you do it right. Bring your salad savviness home and spruce up the ingredient list with some olive oil and good quality produce.

The last key to solving the salad dilemma is in making your own dressing at home. While soybean oil is a dietary villain, extra virgin olive oil is a dietary hero that is so good for you, it’s ridiculous. Make dressing at home with just two main ingredients: olive oil and something tangy like vinegar or citrus juice. Try this local recipe at home, and you’ll be well on your way to completing at least one of those long overdue Pinterest projects. Maybe.

Simple Salad Dressing

1 tablespoon vinegar of any type or citrus juice
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (adjust according to taste)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
Pinch of salt and pepper

Add all ingredients to a Mason jar or well-sealed container. Shake until emulsified. Serve. 

Find other tips to keep your New Year healthy from Angela Larson here.

Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.