You may not know it, but the salad bar can be a dangerous place for your diet. Sure, there are plenty of fresh, healthy food choices. But there are also hidden traps, snares, and pitfalls that can turn a lean lunch into a fatty disaster. Here are the most common salad bar traps and some strategic solutions to stay with the best for your healthy body.


The Iceberg Crash. Iceberg lettuce is titanically popular, but like real icebergs, it contains water and little else. For a salad that's as nutritious as it is delicious, sail past the iceberg and choose darker greens. Romaine lettuce offers much more Calcium, iron, and Vitamins A and C. Kale, spinach, watercress, and arugula are other good choices.

The Vegetable Evasion. Don't avoid the veggie trays: Piling your salad high with fresh vegetables adds flavor and color, as well as nutrition, to your plate. Here are the best choices; pick the ones whose tastes appeal to you most: beets (rich in folate), broccoli (full of Vitamin C), carrots (also rich in C), mushrooms (folate and B Vitamins), red peppers (lots of C), red cabbage (C, B6, and fiber), and tomatoes (contains lycopene).

The Fat Fake-Out. Lurking among the salad bar's healthy harvest are some fatty time bombs: You scoop them up to add a little flavor to your meal, and before you know it, your lunch is as fat-packed as a steakhouse kitchen. Avoid these fatty saboteurs: nuts and seeds, croutons, chow mein noodles, bacon bits. Use them sparingly or not at all.

The Sample Debacle. Many salad bars include potato salad, mac-and-cheese, and other tempting deli concoctions. Why not scoop a small sample on your plate, just for a taste? Because it doesn't take much of these fatty favorites to tip your tray into the danger zone. If you must indulge, finish your salad first, then make a second trip. That way, you'll be too full of healthy fare to overdo it.

The Wolf Attack. Maybe you skipped breakfast. Maybe you're late for lunch. Whatever the reason, you arrive at the salad bar famished beyond belief, and you wolf down your food so fast that you're in line for seconds before your fork hits the table. Solution: Add a cup of soup to your meal plan. Because it's hot, you'll eat it slowly enough for your brain to tell your stomach that you're full, keeping you from overeating.

The Over-Dressed Repast. It's a fatal mistake we all make from time to time: taking a perfectly healthy, perfectly tasty salad and drenching it with a fatty coating of dressing. There are a few strategies to avoid this disaster:

  • Sometimes a salad is tasty enough to enjoy without any dressing at all: Have a naked lunch, or squeeze a wedge of lemon on top for a burst of flavor.
  • If you do use dressing, favor low-fat varieties. Keep the dressing in a small cup or plate on the side, and dip into it as you go.
  • Choose thin dressings, such as French or Italian; they spread more easily, so you can use less.