Lunch Break: Chop’t

Yes, salads can be just as bad for you as a sandwich, if you don’t know how to choose wisely.

Chop’t is a great healthy lunch option, but only if you know how to choose wisely. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user angela n.

If you’re committed to eating well, salad spots like Chop’t are probably the first options that come to mind—after all, what could be harmful about a big bowl o’ veggies? According to this week’s expert, Shelley Lewis Alspaugh, Chop’t is definitely in the safe zone, diet-wise, but there are a few caveats.

“I like the menu in general; it has many options and is very vegetable-oriented. But with this kind of wide-open space, you do need direction,” she explains.

Generally, Alspaugh says, it’s important to think about what you need from your meal. If you’re playing soccer after work, get something high in carbs and protein; if you’re in meetings for the rest of the day, go for something with 30 to 40 grams of carbs, instead.

Alspaugh checked out the menu for us and ranked its popular salads from worst to best. Here are her picks:

WORST . . .
• Mexicali cobb salad sandwich (seasonal): As a salad, this item already yields 630 calories, 125 milligrams of cholesterol, and 660 milligrams of sodium—and that’s without any dressing. Ordering it as a wrap is even worse: “Turning any of these salads into a sandwich adds 300 calories,” our expert says. Opt for the recommended Cholula ranch dressing, and this sandwich becomes a massive 1,050-calorie meal.

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BETTER . . .

Thai cobb salad (seasonal): “The Thai cobb is good overall—it has 460 calories and is moderate in carbs and sodium,” Alspaugh says. Plus it has a decent amount of fiber and more than a day’s worth of vitamins A and C, and the FreeBird chicken is local and naturally raised. Skip the creamy Sriracha dressing and opt for olive oil or vinegar; or, if you must indulge, try Alspaugh’s trick: “Ask for half on the side [for flavor], and add balsamic vinegar to make up the rest.”

BEST . . .

Palm Beach salad: “I put a star on this one,” says Alspaugh, and it’s well deserved. In addition to lean protein from shrimp, the salad packs exceptional “choppings,” such as hearts of palm and avocado. Alspaugh also adds, “There are 12 grams of fiber, which will help you feel more full and satisfied.”

BONUS . . .

Customer craft salad: “Keep it simple and try not to pile on everything for a big redundant salad that’s harder for your body to break down,” she recommends. “Do something with all veggies, one protein, and one source of healthy fats, and skip the free bread for a low-cal meal.” Salad dressing is also a tricky aspect, since it’s usually high in sodium—you’re safest with olive oil, balsamic, or lemon juice.

Her picks? A blend of mesclun and arugula with cucumber, red onion, carrots, and tomato, plus FreeBird grilled chicken and avocado, topped with balsamic dressing.

Shelley Lewis Alspaugh is the lead dietitian at Maryland-based nutrition consulting firm Rebecca Bitzer & Associates. She can be contacted at or 240-731-8682.