Emily’s Skinny Mom Lunch, pictured at left: (clockwise from top left) A mix of green leaf lettuce and spinach topped with tomatoes, garbanzo beans and sunflower seeds with cucumbers drizzled with a little balsamic vinegar; plain baked sweet potatoes, steamed broccoli, Asian sesame vegetable noodles and fresh basil and sweet corn drizzled with seasoned rice vinegar (I usually add edamame to this, but they were out that day).
William’s Healthy Child Lunch, pictured at right: (clockwise from top left) Plain baked sweet potato, whole wheat pita, black olives, steamed broccoli, cucumbers, yellow peppers, peas, corn and tofu drizzled with soy sauce.
One of our favorite inexpensive family-friendly places to eat out that has healthy plant-based options is Fresh Choice www.freshchoice.com. It’s one of those big buffet places with a huge salad bar.
Fresh Choice has an awesome salad bar – tons of fresh vegetables, beans, tofu, baked potatoes (both russet and sweet!), soups (usually two vegan options), pasta and vegetables and fruit for dessert. They have plenty of less healthful options as well like macaroni and cheese and pizza. Not all salad bars are as terrific as Fresh Choice’s but there are a few points I’d like to make about choosing wisely at a salad bar.
How to Build a Healthy Salad at a Salad Bar
Choose a rainbow of vegetables including lots of dark, leafy greens and add beans for protein and fiber. Beans and greens are a dynamic duo! Fruit makes a delicious dessert.
Avoid all animal products. By doing so, you will cut out most of the fat and calories on most salad bars.
Avoid anything creamy. If it’s creamy, that means it most likely contains mayo, sour cream, oil, cheese, eggs or a combination of these products. All of these items are full of fat and calories without providing nutrients or fiber. They will make you fat without making you feel full. Examples include potato salad, macaroni salad, creamy salad dressings like ranch and blue cheese, potato toppings like sour cream and butter and creamy soups. Mac & cheese, pizza and ice cream are obvious no-nos if you want to be a Skinny Mom or a Healthy Child.
Avoid anything oily such as oily salad dressings. All regular salad dressings (oily or creamy) can take a healthy salad and turn it into a fattening, artery clogging diet-disaster. Even just 2 tablespoons can easily add 300 calories to an otherwise healthy salad. Most people use much more than just 2 tablespoons of dressing. Instead of regular dressing, drizzle on a little vinegar or lemon juice. These choices are fat and cholesterol-free and almost calorie-free. For a little extra flavor and crunch, add a tablespoon or two of nuts or seeds. The fat in the nuts helps our bodies absorb the nutrients in the greens and it’s better to get the fat from whole foods rather than from oils because nuts contain fiber, vitamins, minerals and protein in addition to fat.
Avoid anything meaty. All animal products – meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy products contain saturated fat and cholesterol. Grilled meat contains HCAs – heterocyclic amines – cancer causing chemicals that form when animal muscle is cooked at high heat. Grilled chicken is highest in HCAs. Processed meat like hot dogs, pepperoni and bacon contain nitrates and nitrites – cancer causing compounds proven to increase the risk of leukemia and other cancers. If you want your child to be a Healthy Child, just say no to pepperoni pizza. For more on cancer and processed meat, see:
Avoid baked goods, especially sweets like pastries. They contain sugar, white flour and fat (oil, butter or hydrogenated vegetable oil). All of these foods are quite simply junk. They provide no nutrients, just empty calories. Instead, opt for fruit if you crave a sweet treat.
Remember the salad is the meal. It can and should be a big salad. There is no need to worry about portions when you’re filling up on leafy greens and other vegetables. Just eat until you’re satisfied, not stuffed.
Other great choices at salad bars are vegetable and bean soups (dairy and meat-free, please). Soups are very filling and satisfying. When and if you decide to go back for more food, you’ll already be quite full and won’t want to fill up on unhealthy foods.
When you fill your plate and your stomach with a delicious rainbow of vegetables, you simply won’t have room to fit in unhealthy choices. Remember to eat fruits and/or vegetables at every single meal every single day!
Yours in Health & Compassion,