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9 Worst Foods at the Salad Bar

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Just because a food is on the salad bar doesn't make it healthy. Among the healthier choices you'll typically find, like green and fresh fruits, are also foods high in calories and fat. Check out the list below to find out which foods to avoid and how to fill your plate with healthier fare. While some are no-brainers (bacon bits anyone?), there are other less obvious salad bar staples that can sabotage an otherwise healthy diet.

1. Croutons

Croutons contain artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. They provide few nutrients and are high in refined carbs, which won't keep you feeling full for long.
Healthier choice: Opt for a slice of whole wheat bread or a whole wheat roll.

2. Bacon Bits

It's just a little bacon, right? Not always. Many varieties of bacon bits actually don't contain any real bacon at all. Instead, they're made using artificial flavorings, colors, preservatives, salt, and are high in fat. A three-ounce jar of real bacon bits has nearly 2,000 mg of sodium.
Healthier choice: Sprinkle a spoonful of smoked ham or fresh turkey on your salad as an alternative.

3. Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Unlike fresh tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes are often bathed in oil, salt, and preservatives. One cup of sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil contains 234 calories and 15 g of fat.
Healthier choice: Stick with a cup of fresh, raw tomatoes which have only 32 calories and are fat-free.

4. Shredded Cheese

The problem with cheese is portion control. One cup of cheddar cheese has more calories and fat than a large serving of fries from McDonald's. Choose a low-fat cheese if possible and limit your servings to the size of your thumb.
Healthier choice: A strong cheese like feta or sharp cheddar will give your salad a punch of flavor in smaller amounts.

5. Candied Nuts

Candied nuts are high in fat, sodium, sugar, and artificial colors and flavors.
Healthier choice: A simple switch is to choose fresh almonds or walnuts, which are packed with healthy fats and other essential nutrients. Stick to small portions to avoid over-loading on calories.

6. Mayo-Filled Salads

Potato, chicken, tuna, and egg salads are typically mixed with mayonnaise or sour cream, making these salad bar staples high in artery-clogging fat and cholesterol. They're also a breeding ground for bacteria if stored improperly.
Healthier choice: Enjoy a side of sweet potatoes or butternut squash, grilled chicken or turkey, or hard-boiled eggs.

7. Salad Dressings

Even if you put together a healthy salad with all the best ingredients, topping it off with the wrong dressing can turn it into a nutritional nightmare. Many dressings, especially creamy options like thousand island or ranch are high in calories, fat, and sodium. A 1/4 cup of ranch has 300 calories, 32 g of fat, and 488 mg of sodium.
Healthier choice: Dress your salad with fat-free balsamic vinegar. It only has 52 calories and 4 mg of sodium.

8. Wontons or Tortillas

These deep-fried toppers are high in fat, loaded with sodium, and lack any real nutrients. The worst offender: tortilla bowls. A single tortilla bowl can have more calories and fat than a hamburger.
Healthier choice: Add crunch to your salad with a tablespoons of nuts or seeds or carrots and peppers.

9. Pasta Salads

Pre-dressed and mixed pasta salads are often made using too much oil, which makes them high in fat and calories.
Healthier choice: Choose a small serving of a bean- or veggie-based salad (just be sure it isn't doused in oil). You'll get a healthy serving of protein and complex carbs.

Tags: Health, Eating Out, Food