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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I'll have a salad please!

Salads are a great way eat the 3 servings of vegetables recommended by MyPyramid. They can be light accompaniment or hearty meal that celebrates winter or memorializes summer.

When done right, salads can be the perfect food! But, salads can also be dangerous ground, a treat more than a healthy choice. Here are some examples of healthy choices, and some that are more calorific than a Big Mac.

A healthy salad includes:
• 2 Cups of Greens,
• 1 oz. of light Ranch Dressing (two tablespoons)
• Carrots,
• Tomatoes,
• Cucumbers,
• Mushrooms,
• Red Onion,
• Peppers

It has 145 Calories and 6 Grams of Fat. If that sounds a little boring, we can add in 2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds or sliced almonds and add a half of a cup of diced chicken for a total of 345 calories and 17 grams of fat. A great, healthy salad!

Compare that to a taco salad. The ingredients in a taco salad are:
• Fried Taco Shell,
• Greens,
• Taco Meat,
• Tomatoes,
• Sour Cream,
• Cheese,
• Green onions

This is where salads start to get into trouble. There are 860 calories in this salad, and 46 grams of fat. A premium Bacon Ranch Salad with Crispy Chicken has 370 calories and 20 grams of fat. A BK Tendercrisp salad has 670 calories and 45 grams of fat, and a Wendy’s BLT sandwich has 790 calories and 53 grams of fat.

Incidentally, a Big Mac and small fries has 540 calories and 29 grams of fat.

Now that the differences have been brought to light, we know which one is the healthy choice. But, maybe this just isn’t a healthy choice moment.

If a 155 pound person ate the taco salad instead of the healthy salad, she would have to burn off the difference of 515 calories. That would be (in addition to regular activites):
  • Two hours of walking carrying a 15 pound load (like a backpack or baby),
  • One hour of biking at a moderate effort (or about 12-14 miles per hour),
  • Two and a half hours of child care that includes sitting, kneeling, dressing and feeding small children or
  • One hour of jogging.
If none of those options fit well into your life, other options include hiking for 75 minutes, grooming a horse for 90 minutes, rowing for an hour or weight lifting for two and half hours.
So the choice is yours, but don't forget the work it will take to get back to a balanced day (no calorie deficit or excess).

For more nutrition information on salads, or any other option that might be chosen, check out these sources:

McDonald’s Nutrition Information
Burger King's Nutrition Information
Wendy’s Nutrition Information

Thanks to NutriStrategy (a nutrition and fitness software company) for providing the calorie burn equivalents!

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