STAY FIT : ‘No salad, please, I’m on diet!’
It’s not what waiters are used to hearing, but it could become an increasingly familiar request: “Hold the salad, please — I’m on a diet.’’ According to nutritionists, salads may masquerade as the menu’s healthiest option: once you start totting up the calories and looking in detail at the content, they often leave a lot to be desired. This week, Tom Sanders, professor of nutritional sciences and dietetics at King’s College London, said he was appalled to discover that one salad, the D’Autunno chicken at Pizza Express, aubergine and almond, contained 35 per cent fat and a whopping 940 calories. And it wasn’t the only one: salad offerings from other high street chains were also dripping with fat and calories. In some cases a Big Mac and fries, or a regular pizza, contained fewer calories and could be considered the “healthier’’ choice.
We should wise up about salads, according to CJ Brough of the website DailyDietTracker.co.uk: they can be a healthy choice, but not necessarily. “It comes back to the thing nutritionists say all the time, which is that there’s no such thing as good and bad foods, just good or bad choices,” she says. In other words, while it’s possible to make a healthy choice with a pizza — by asking for less cheese, no bacon and no oil, for example; it’s also possible to make an unhealthy salad choice by, say, going for something laden with croutons and swimming in a creamy dressing. In fact, Brough says she would go so far as to suggest that if you are eating out, salads are best avoided. “Many of them are very calorific, so they don’t have the desired effect and, after all, eating out is meant to be a treat, the chance to have something you couldn’t have at home.” But restaurant salads don’t have to be all bad: health-conscious diners in America are far more used to asking for ingredients “on the side’’ and it’s a good idea. “If your dressing is on the side, you can control how much you pour over the salad,” says Brough. Potentially high-fat ingredients, croutons, for example, or cheese, are also healthier as a side order than already mixed in. Or better still, leave the croutons or dough balls out. However, one must not rule dressing “out altogether, because a salad without a dressing is a bore — you become the cliched dieter munching your way through a dry mound of rabbit food”.