Using in-season ingredients is a more sustainable practice, and it’s one of the things registered dietician nutritionist Carlene Thomas loves the most about fast, casual salad chain Sweetgreen. But though a big bowl of leafy greens, grilled meat, and colorful toppings sounds like the perfect recipe for a healthy lunch, you can still do some serious caloric damage at Sweetgreen.
“In general when you’re salad shopping make sure you’re not over-doing it on the salad ‘confetti’ like nuts and cheeses, which may push you over your daily recommended fat intake,” says Thomas. “Also keep in mind, Sweetgreen’s nutrition label only takes into account ‘light dressing’ amounts, so if you go for medium, add it up!”
Sweetgreen’s current seasonal menu brings power-veggies like kale and beets into play, so to read between the lines of healthy-sounding options, we asked Thomas to identify the healthiest and worst options on the spring menu.
Local Blue Cheese and Bacon Salad (620 calories): The organic mesclun, shredded kale, and roasted sweet potatoes can’t hold up against the caramelized onions, honey-glazed pecans, blue cheese (even though it’s local!), and bacon. “I love bacon but if I had to pick, this salad is definitely more in the treat category because of the toppings. At 620 calories, the thing to watch is the 405 calories from fat which come from the bacon and cheese as well as the pecans,” says Thomas.
Roasted Salmon and Radish Salad (415 calories): It’s hard to argue with healthy ingredients like organic arugula, shredded kale, radishes, beets, carrots, and roasted salmon, all topped off with mustard-oregano vinaigrette. “This seasonal salad is the best pick, not because it has the lowest calories, but because of the composition,” say Thomas. “With a salmon topping that touts healthy omega-3 fats as well as a total of 21 grams of protein, you’ll finally get your recommended seafood serving. This salad also has a nice ratio of fiber to total carbs to keep you full and your digestive system ‘detoxed.’”
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
You can never over-do it on the colorful vegetables, but take it easy on carb, dairy, or nut toppings. “When you make your pick, make sure you have a source of protein like tofu, beans, fish or another meat to keep you full and satisfied,” says Thomas.
Carlene Thomas is the RDN, LD behind Healthfully Ever After in Georgetown.