Can You Save Calories Eating A Ham And Cheese Sandwich Instead Of A Salad?

calories-in-saladSomehow we’ve embraced the idea that salads are always a light and healthy choice.  Sometimes they are – but all too often they aren’t.

Listen to lunchtime orders and you hear salad, salad, salad – and an occasional sandwich. Sometimes the sandwich is the clear winner in terms of calories and fat.  For instance, a ham and cheese sandwich ranges from 350 to 450 calories depending upon how much ham and cheese there really is – and whether it comes with mustard or mayo (and, of course, not fries or chips). And sometimes the salad is a better choice — depending on what goes into it.  Check out the following nutritional facts for salads.

The Green Base

The green stuff that’s the base for most salads isn’t the problem.  Most greens are very low in calories and pretty nutritious.

  • 1 cup shredded Romaine: 8 calories, 1 gram fiber, 1 gram protein, 0 gram fat
  • 1 cup of Arugula:  6 calories, 1 gram fiber, 1 gram protein, 0 gram fat
  • 1 cup raw spinach:  7 calories, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram protein
  • 1 cup chopped kale:  32 calories, 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of protein, 0 gram fat

Where’s The Problem?

Answer:  Hidden in high calorie add-ons and dressings.

  • Generally, at least ¼ of a cup (frequently more) of dressing is added to a tossed salad. A ladle of creamy dressing has about 360 calories and 38g of fat (a cheeseburger’s worth).
  • Tuna, macaroni, and chicken salads, the holy grail of delis and salad bars, are loaded with mayonnaise, which is loaded with fat.  ½ cup of chicken salad has around 208 calories, 16g of fat; tuna salad has 192 calories, 9g fat; tuna pasta salad has 397 calories, 9g fat; macaroni salad has 170 calories, 9g fat. (Remember, ½ cup is pretty small.)
  • Then there’s cheese. A ¼ cup (a ¼ cup serving is really small) serving of shredded cheddar has 114 calories, 9g fat;  blue cheese has 80 calories, 6g fat;  feta has 75 calories, 6g fat.
  • Croutons and Crispy Noodles: ¼ cup of plain croutons has 31 calories, 0g fat; 1 serving of McDonald’s Butter Garlic Croutons has 60 calories, 1g fat; ¼ cup of crispy noodles has 74 calories, 4g fat
  • Dried cranberries: ¼ cup has 98 calories, 0g fat
  • Nuts and seeds: ¼ cup sunflower seeds: 210 calories, 19g fat; chopped walnuts:  193 calories, 18g fat
  • Avocado, ¼ cup: 58 calories, 5g fat
  • Bacon bits, 1 tablespoon: 25 calories, 2g fat
  • Bread (often used to sop up leftover dressing): 1 piece of French bread, 82 calories, 1g fat; 1 dinner roll, 78 calories, 2g fat. Dressing sopped up by the bread or roll:  lots of extra fat calories!

This tip is part of the “lose 5 pounds in 5 weeks” challenge.  Read more about the challenge here and post how you’re doing on Eat Out Eat Well’s Facebook page.

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