Eight salads worse for you than a Whopper

We discover that ordering a salad isn't always the healthy choice Discuss this article

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Do you tend to order a hunk of leaves when you dine out? Be careful – just because your dish is green, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Here, a nutritionist debunks the myths on eight such offerings around town.

For many body-conscious Dubaians, it’s common practice to choose the healthy option when confronted with a menu during the working week. Many of us opt for a salad, under the guise that it’ll do the least damage to our waistlines. But in actual fact, there are many salads out there posing as saints, when they are actually sinners. Here, with the help of Dubai-based nutritionist Ahlaam Ali, we peruse eight salads found at venues in Dubai, which weigh in at more than 670 calories. And that’s the average calorific content of a Burger King Whopper. As well as calories, we take a look at the level of saturated fat and sodium in each. ‘Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300mg a day — or 1,500mg if you’re 51 or older or have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease,’ says Ali. Here, our expert takes us through some of the rogue salads to watch out for lurking on menus around Dubai, and reveals how to make them more healthy.

Nutritional breakdown of a Whopper

Total calories: 670
Saturated fat: 11gm
Sodium: 1,020mg
Carbs: 51gm

BBQ chicken salad at Chili’s

Total calories: 970
Saturated fat: 19gm
Sodium: 2,170mg
Carbs: 48gm

Ingredients: Grilled chicken breast, crispy beef bacon, cheddar cheese, pico de gallo, corn relish, cilantro, crispy (fried) tortilla strips, barbecue sauce served with ranch dressing
(350 calories).
Ali says: ‘The ranch dressing contains 350 calories. This salad is equivalent to having three Lion chocolate bars, which are 370 calories each.’

Chicken caesar salad at Cheese Cake Factory

Total calories: 976
Saturated fat: 10gm
Sodium: 923mg
Carbs: 18gm

Ingredients: Romaine lettuce, croutons, chicken, parmesan cheese and a special caesar dressing.
Ali says: ‘At a whopping 976 calories, this salad is loaded with more calories than the tiramisu on the menu, which is 930 calories.’

Grilled chicken toastada salad at Cheese Cake Factory

Total calories: 1,131
Saturated fat: 11gm
Sodium: 970mg
Carbs: 93gm

Ingredients: Crispy corn tortillas, grilled marinated chicken breast, black beans, mixed greens, fresh corn, green onions and cilantro.
Ali says: ‘If you were to eat this salad every day for a week with your regular meals, you would put on 1.5kg.’

Pecan-crusted chicken salad at TGIF

Total calories: 1,080
Saturated fat: 16gm
Sodium: 1,650mg
Carbs: 76gm

Ingredients: Pecan-crusted chicken, mandarin oranges, sweet-glazed pecans, celery, dried cranberries, blue cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.
Ali says: ‘Beware, the minute you read the word ‘crusted’, interpret it is as ‘fried’. The amount of sodium here is what you should be consuming in five meals over two days.’

Boneless buffalo chicken salad at Chili’s

Total calories: 1,110
Saturated fat: 17gm
Sodium: 4,150mg
Carbs: 46gm

Ingredients: Fried chicken wings with Applewood-smoked beef bacon, blue-cheese crumbles, tortilla strips, pico de gallo and ranch dressing.
Ali says: ‘This salad clocks in at an astonishing 1,110 calories – almost double the calories of a Whopper. The sodium content is equivalent to four big packs of crisps.’

Quesadilla explosion salad at Chili’s

Total calories: 850
Saturated fat: 21gm
Sodium: 2,230mg
Carbs: 240gm

Ingredients: Fajita-marinated chicken, corn relish, mixed cheeses, cilantro, diced tomatoes, crispy tortilla strips, ranch drizzle, cheese. quesadilla wedges, balsamic dressing.
Ali says: ‘This salad is actually equivalent to having four Original Glazed Krispy Kreme donuts.’

Southwestern cobb salad at Chili’s

Total calories: 720
Saturated fat: 16gm
Sodium: 1,070mg
Carbs: 22gm

Ingredients: ‘Crispy’ chicken breast with corn relish, crispy beef bacon, diced eggs, cheeses and fresh pico de gallo and avocado ranch dressing.
Ali says: ‘This salad is actually equivalent to having three-and-a-half slices of a 12-inch cheese pizza.’

Chicken chopped salad with ginger dressing at PF Chang’s

Total calories: 940
Saturated fat: 10gm
Sodium: 2,225mg
Carbs: 22gm

Ingredients: Grilled chicken, house greens, ginger or sesame-vinaigrette.
Ali says: ‘The extremely high sodium content is actually as bad as having two huge packs of crisps.’
The verdict: ‘Most of these salads ring in at around the 1,000 calorie mark – which is nearly a meal. Most of us need 1,200 calories a day to function [although most experts suggest we need at least 2,000 calories] and when trying to lose weight, we should be creating a calorie deficit every day by eating the right foods and exercising. If we were to eat these salads on a regular basis, we wouldn’t actually lose any weight, in fact we would be piling it all on. Instead, stick to plain salads which are rich in omegas, such as the quinoa tabouleh salad at Circle Café, which is approximately only 335 calories.’
Ahlaam Ali is a nutrition and lifestyle consultant and founder of Powwereat, ahlaam@ahlaamali.com.

By Jenny Hewett
Time Out Doha,

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