Question: We have a large salad bar at the work cafeteria that I would like to take advantage of for lunch (especially during the summer). I'm trying to lose weight and control blood sugar. Could you give me some tips on what to choose and what to steer clear on at the salad bar?
Answer: Many of the items on the salad bar are safe and healthy options for people trying to watch their weight and/or control their blood sugars. Load up on fresh veggies - most of the veggies on the salad bar are going to be low in calories, low in carbs, high in fiber, and full of nutrition and disease-fighting properties. If they offer darker mixed greens, choose these over iceburg lettuce.
I usually encourage people eating salads to have some lean protein (chicken, tuna, turkey, or lowfat cottage cheese) along with their salad. Cheese is also a protein but it's high in calories and saturated fat, so try to keep it limited to 1/4 cup of less if you are going to add it to your salad.
Higher carb items which will affect your blood sugars more include pasta and potato salads, fruit, beans, or dessert items. One good spoonful (1/2 cup or less) of one of these items along with your veggies and lean protein is probably okay.
Finally, limit the amount of salad dressing that you use. I encourage people to keep their salad dressing on the side and dip their fork in it before each bite - this makes portion control easier. Try to choose a lite dressing if possible. Vinegar tends to be very low in carbs and add great flavor to a salad. Be cautious with the sweeter dressings like French, Honey Mustard or some of the flavored vinaigrettes which may have up to 15g carb per tablespoon.