Question of the Week

May 26, 2003

What's in a name? When someone says, "Salad," what image comes to mind? Do you think of rabbit food? Do you think of it as healthy?

While at the local farmer's market on Saturday, I overheard someone giving her opinion on the subject. She commented that she only liked salad if it had a good dressing; the salad was just a vehicle, something for the dressing to stick to while she ate it.

When many people think of salads, they picture a pile of leaves. While this may not be the first choice for many, it is often the choice made by those trying to "eat healthy." Even fast food restaurants are trying to bring in health/weight conscious patrons by offering salads that will appeal to people, not rabbits. The question remains, with all the added extras, is it still healthy? Does it still count as a salad?

Salad: "A dish of raw leafy green vegetables, often tossed with pieces of other raw or cooked vegetables, fruit, cheese, or other ingredients and served with a dressing....A cold dish of chopped vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, eggs, or other food, usually prepared with a dressing, such as mayonnaise."

So, with the inclusion of "other ingredients," one could chop up just about anything and put it together to make a salad. The dressing, the mayonnaise, the "other food," may be what help improve the taste of the salad, but are they making it so that it is no longer a healthy choice?

While the fact that a Quarter Pounder from McDonald's has 420 calories and 21 grams of fat may not be much of a surprise to those counting calories and watching fat grams, how many would think that a Crispy Chicken California Cobb Salad (with no dressing--also from McDonald's) has 380 calories and 23 grams of fat?

How do other restaurants compare?
Many have nutritional information available upon request, while others have information charted online. Search your favorite and see what they have to say.

Restaurants (fast food and others) know that many people have good intentions are trying to eat a healthier diet. While some new additions to the menu are healthier alternatives, others just have healthy names. What items will help those who are trying to "Aim for a total fat intake of no more than 30 percent of calories, as recommended...."

"The USDA has established dietary guidelines to help us make healthy choices. Some of these guidelines are:
* Eat a variety of foods.
* Choose a diet with plenty of grain products, vegetables, and fruits.
* Choose a diet low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
* Eat sugars and sodium (salt) in moderation."

Questions of the Week:
How do you know if what you are choosing is a "healthy choice"? What makes a food a "healthy choice"? If we can't trust salads to be healthy alternatives, then what can we look for?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

[email protected]
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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