Besides flowers and warmer weather, do you know what’s awesome about May? It’s National Salad Month! And while you should totally celebrate with a big ol’ bowl of your favorite mixed greens (check out our great recommendations below), let’s go over a few salad guidelines first. See, while most people think of salads as healthy options, they can actually be sneaky calorie bombs when you add things like mayo-based dressings and bacon bits. So here are a few expert tips.
Michelle Conlon, a registered dietitian at Temple University Hospital, says that when ordering or making salads, you should avoid fried toppings, such as fried chicken. After all, fried chicken, no matter what it sits on top of, is still fried chicken and loaded with fat and cholesterol. She also advises avoiding creamy dressings, such as ranch, bleu cheese and Caesar, as well as high-fat cheeses and crunchy toppings like tortilla chips. And although croutons are a salad staple, they’re usually loaded with butter and can add some serious calories to your salad, says Kevin O’Melia, nutritionist at Philadelphia Nutrition Center.
So how do you choose or make a healthy salad?
“The darker the lettuces, the better,” says Conlon. “Vegetables that are dark colors are usually better for you.” Opt for spinach, arugula and romaine, which have more nutrients than iceberg lettuce, and veggies like green and red peppers over cucumbers. For alternative sources of protein, Conlon says to choose things like chickpeas, black beans, tuna, avocado and nuts.
And as far as dressings go, stay in the clear with translucent vinaigrettes.
“A great place to start start is balsamic vinegar and olive oil,” O’Melia says, adding that olive oil has good fats, as opposed to the fat in, say, Caesar dressing. This is easy enough to request at a restaurant or fix up at home.
Craving a salad right now? You’re in luck. We asked some local health and fitness experts what their favorite salads are at Philly area restaurants. Below are their recommendations.
Bibb and Endive Salad at Rouge (Location: Rittenhouse Square)
Red onion, cherry tomato, roquefort cheese, spicy cashews, honeycrisp apple, red wine vinaigrette
“I love, love, love this salad,” says yoga instructor Keli Engleson. Bonus: it’s huge.
Asian Kale Salad at Jar Bar (Location: Midtown Village)
Marinated kale, cabbage, carrot, red pepper, scallion and hemp seeds with sesame-ginger dressing
“A client actually recommended this salad to me,” says Sweat trainer Holly Waters. “She said it makes you beautiful from the inside out.”
Raw Brussels Sprout Salad at Pure Fare (Location: Rittenhouse Square)
Shaved raw Brussels sprouts, carrots, and oranges in a spicy mustard dressing, topped with raw cashews
Health coach Ali Shapiro says: “This is not your plain old lettuce combo. It’s tasty, refreshing and filling—and easily three servings of veggies!”
Organic Mixed Greens Salad at Seasons 52 (Location: King of Prussia)
Toasted sunflower seeds, tomatoes, cucumbers and white balsamic vinaigrette
“It’s harder than one would think to find a tasty, healthy, gluten-free salad in the area,” says nutrition counselor and gluten-free guru Jennifer Fugo. “Seasons 52 offers a gluten-free menu, and the Organic Mixed Greens salad has become one of my faves. It’s got a great, light dressing with crisp fresh veggies topped with seeds, which offer up some great fat to keep you fueled and feeling full throughout the afternoon.”
Mango Tango at Couch Tomato Cafe (Location: Manayunk)
Spinach, mango, avocado, cilantro, toasted coconut and almonds. Recommended with honey-lime vinaigrette
Says yoga teacher and health coach Maura Manzo: “Just ate it—yuuuuum!”
Roasted Beet Salad at Barbuzzo (Location: Center City)
Goat cheese, grapefruit, Tuscan kale, pistachio pesto, sherry vinegar
“There is not one thing in this salad that I do not absolutely love all by itself, so putting them all together into one creative, nutritious, and unbelievably delicious combination makes me very happy,” says Audrey McKenna Hasse, a personal trainer based in Haverford.
Greek Salad at Lourdas Greek Taverna (Location: Bryn Mawr)
Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, onions, feta cheese and Kalamata olives
“All of the ingredients are so fresh, and with a choice of grilled chicken or shrimp on top, you can’t go wrong,” says McKenna Hasse. “They are more than generous with the portion size, but since it’s so healthy you can eat the whole thing without any guilt!”
Strawberry Spinach Salad at Fuel (Locations: Center City and South Philly)
Spinach, strawberries, red onion, gorgonzola cheese, tomatoes and candied pecans in berry vinaigrette
“I’m a fan of just about everything on Fuel’s menu, but the strawberry spinach salad is definitely my favorite,” says Jillian Dreusike, professional ballerina and creator of the ballet-based workout BodyLogic. “The sweetness of the strawberries is complemented by the creaminess of the cheese, and you can’t beat the added protein of the pecans. Plus, that berry vinaigrette? Delicious.”
What’s your favorite salad in Philly? Tell us in the comments!
>> Check out more healthy eating ideas from Be Well Philly here.