Healthy Restaurant Eating

By The Restaurant Dieter

Tag: salad

How much dressing is in that cup on the side?

Let’s talk, shall we, fellow Weight Watchers, about the salad dressing cup? You know, that little plastic, stainless steel or ceramic cup that arrives cradled on the edge of your salad when you have the temerity to ask the waiter, “Can I have the dressing on the side?”

It’s a godsend, right? Well, maybe.

In the restaurant trade, this item is apparently known as a sauce cup, a souffle cup or a portion cup. I like the latter term because portion control is what so many of us lack. Our well-intended salads mutate to mock us: “Oh sure, you ordered a salad! But will you LOOK at the high-fat dressing that’s on it?” OK, busted.

That’s where that little cup comes in. We pick it up, pour it on, smug that we are in control of our cellulite.

Ah, if it were only that simple. These little gems come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials. Search “plastic portion cup” in Google and see what you get. It’s confusing.

I found black ones, white ones, clear ones, polystyrene ones, stainless steel ones and ceramic ones. I found them in sizes ranging from 3/4 ounces to 3 1/4 ounces. The size I regarded as the most common turned out to contain 2 ounces in plastic but 2.5 ounces in stainless steel. But they looked the same to me.

Plus, that 2-2.5 ounce cup isn’t what you want anyway. Look on the side of that dressing bottle, my friend: the nutritional information calls for a 2 tablespoon serving — which is 1 ounce.

That’s a double portion pointed right at your hips.

Defend yourself. Ask for a tablespoon and drip it on gingerly. It may not be as accurate as the tablespoon measure in your kitchen, but it’s also unlikely to be a double shot.

Oh, and if the dressing comes in one of those little silver gravy boats, run. Immediately.

The Whole Paycheck Salad

Whole Foods, I come today to praise you. Mostly.

But I will give you some grief because I can’t think of a better corporate example of the studies concluding that healthy food costs more. Once only the rich could afford to be fat; nowadays only the rich can afford to be thin.

Today I needed a salad chock full of fresh ingredients. Where better to get one than Whole Foods? The company’s salad bars are great. They almost always have three types of greens, plus lots of items you won’t find everywhere: plant-rich proteins like tofu and edamame; shredded radish; green, red and yellow bell pepper; carrot; beet; broccoli and cauliflower. There are prepared salads using kale and great gains such as quinoa and wheatberry. They have a wide variety of dressings, some low in fat, ranging from a balsamic vinaigrette to Asian sesame, miso and Ranch. For protein, there’s eggs, mock crab and big chunks of grilled white meat chicken.

Uh, scratch that.

The chicken is where lunch started to cross from whole-some to Whole Paycheck, the company’s unflattering nickname.

Turkey chunks: real food?

The salad bar didn’t have any chicken; just some perfectly rectangular chunks of deli turkey. Those chunks never look appealing.

So I asked an employee at the deli counter if they might be putting some chicken out. After checking in the back, the employee said said the kitchen was all out. But the employee offered to chop up one of the breasts in the deli case. Great.

Then the employee put it in a deli box and weighed it and added the sales sticker.

“How much is that chicken?” I asked.

“$12.99 a pound,” the employee said.

“And how much is the salad bar?”

“$7.99 a pound,” the employee said sheepishly. “It’s different chicken. The salad bar chicken comes from the rotisserie.”

“So it’s $5 better a pound chicken?”

Recognizing how ridiculous that sounded, the employee opened the deli box, dumped the chicken on my salad and threw the box away.

“Yeah,” the employee said, “even I sometimes can’t afford to buy food here.”

So in the end I paid $11.81 for the salad. Count me virtuous and lucky, but still twelve bucks poorer.