Sunday, 19 January 2014

How to Make Friends with Salad

Anyone who’s ever travelled with me knows I always bring enough food to feed an army in my suitcase. I never leave for a trip without packing a few granola bars, peanut butter, almonds, and some veggies sticks and fruit (unless I’m going to the USA where they are strict with produce)

The other day, I packed up, left my apartment and was a good 20 minutes away when I realized I had forgotten my lovely homemade turkey soup that was supposed to be my dinner in the fridge. I immediately cursed myself for this silly mistake. Fortunately, there are TONS of dining options in the Toronto underground PATH system. Unfortunately, there are tons of unhealthy and expensive options to choose from.

Here to save the day, the Longo’s salad bar. I know a lot of people that ‘don’t make friends with salad’ but given that it’s the New Year, I felt this would be a good post to include for people who are looking for better lunch options at work. The BEST option is of course to pack your own lunch, but I realize this isn’t always possible and it’s nice to treat yourself every once and awhile.

The biggest downside to the salad bar? Not knowing how much your lunch costs until you reach the checkout. I once made a delicious salad at whole foods, and enjoyed every bite of my $20 creation, but I would rather keep the price down if necessary. I don’t have a picture, but this time I managed to make a salad of mixed greens, peppers, onions, artichokes, zucchini, chicken pieces, and some seaweed salad with tofu and shrimp for just over $10, pretty reasonable considering the ingredients and ample portion size.

Here are some tips for avoiding sticker shock at the till and ensuring a nutrient packed lunch

1. Best, and Cheapest Portions
Spinach or mixed greens
Plain peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini
Sunflower seeds, plain nuts and dried fruit
Plain shrimp or tofu cubes

2. Good, but Heavy Water Weight and Expensive
Fruit- very expensive when paying per weight, better off buying a whole piece and chopping it up
Chicken- I read some blogs that say shrimp and tofu is lighter by weight
Beans and chickpeas- healthy, just heavy, way cheaper to bring a small container of your own and add

3. Worst- Avoid
Croutons- empty carbohydrate calories
Anything marinated or slathered in mayonnaise- adds weight and often made with cheap processed vegetable oils
Crumbled bacon- enough said
Pasta salads- cheap, heavy and not filling
Cheese- if dairy intolerant or watching your weight, cheese is a good thing to avoid, a serving of cheese if the size of two dice and easy to overeat

Most salad bars will put the heaviest and cheapest items (pasta salad) at the front, and the most expensive and lighter options (shrimp) at the end of the salad bar so that you load up on the cheap stuff and don’t have enough room at the end. Do a scan of the entire salad bar and decide what you want before filling up.

I’ve also bought a salad before and added my own hardboiled egg for added protein at a fraction of the price. Also bring your own dressing or skip altogether as dressings can add a lot of weight (especially creamy ones) to the salad.

What's your favourite thing to put on a salad? I go through phases; sometimes I'm all about a mixture of spinach with fruit, other times I like a more asian inspiration with kimchi and seaweed salad 

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