When salads are bad

I got scared the other day. It didn’t have anything to do with losing my child in a clothes store, and half wondering if I’d have to contact the cashiers to put out an announcement over the intercom. It had to do with lunch. At my friend’s house in Los Angeles. Without any kids at all.

Trader Joe's kale and edamame salad

The culprit, in all its healthy-looking glory

Generally, I consider myself a healthy eater. I tend to prefer vegetables over heavier meals, and I haven’t eaten red meat since I was 16. This meat-free diet doesn’t come without its fair share of angst. Once when I was traveling in Amsterdam, I ordered a vegetable soup, assuming it would be a safe option. Turns out it came with meatballs.

The latest trend in the healthy-eating world seems to be eating food as raw as possible. The rougher the better. What could be more rough-and-ready than kale. I admit, I’m not a huge fan of kale. How far removed is this from cabbage? I’d rather something leafier and softer. Kale is the kind of thing you have to chop into a million pieces to make edible or, if you’re my husband, you would boil it until it’s slimy.

I’ve been in Los Angeles for a couple of days already, and stuffing myself with whatever I feel like: coffee, cocktails and greasy Mexican food have been consumed, not necessarily in that order. I’ve even been nibbling at kettle chips and Thai food. On my last afternoon in the city before heading back to San Diego, I am looking for the healthiest thing I can find. I stumble across Trader Joe’s Kale and Edamame salad. I might as well say it now – I am a sucker for anything with a Japanese twist.

The salad has sweetened dried cranberries, grape tomatoes, slivered almonds, scallions and a lemon-herb dressing. I am being virtuous. My body is going to thank me for this. Yes, I will feel like I’ve just had colonic irrigation.

I’m probably into my third or fourth bite when my friend interrupts my health-food reverie by announcing in disbelief: ‘Oh my god, this salad has 38 grams of fat.’ I don’t believe her. I look at the label hidden beneath the plastic container. She is right. This little bit of green, from-the-earth roughage with salad dressing (550 calories) has more calories and fat than a double cheeseburger from McDonald’s (440 calories, 23 grams of fat).

So be warned: it might look healthy, but check the nutritional content before you buy. I’m not saying I’d rather have a cheeseburger, but I don’t want to feel like I’m somehow being duped into thinking I’m being healthy. I promptly went to the kitchen sink and washed off the dressing, which contained 200 calories and 23 grams of fat. I’d rather swallow bits of dry kale. I imagine it’s not unlike eating small bits of sandpaper, but more organic and earthy.

You know what, I’d rather just eat cake.

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8 Comments

Filed under Food

8 responses to “When salads are bad

  1. Wow — that’s crazy! I thought for a second that it might have been the nuts (as they often jack up fat and calories but aren’t necessarily bad) but it doesn’t look or sound like there were tons of them.

    I think my favorite salad is diced tomatoes, diced cucumbers, some onion, and then some salt, pepper, and lemon juice added in. You can even add a jalapeno to it to add a little kick. So delicious and filling.

    • There weren’t a ton of almonds, but I tend to think this kind of fat is okay. I don’t mind consuming calories and fat from nuts. I was shocked, though, that this tiny tub of dressing could contain so much fat. It’s, pardon the pun, totally nuts! Your salad sounds delicious and much more healthy. I will give it a try. I love jalapenos too. Thanks for the suggestion.

  2. Before I read your last few sentences, I was thinking that most of the fat came from the dressing. Even the fat that is left in the salad itself is most likely from the almonds and is, good fat (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) as opposed to the bad, saturated fat. The dressing, you would hope, was made with olive oil, another good fat. Even if you had the dressing, it would still be healthier than eating a Micky-D’s double cheese burger!

    • You’re right about the almonds. Definitely good fat. The dressing, though, was probably made with a mayonnaise base because it was creamy. That should have been my first tip-off that this salad wasn’t as healthy as it first appeared. I was still surprised that such a small container of dressing (it was tiny) could have so many calories and fat. I’m now wondering how many calories are in a Caesar salad, one of my favorites, which often comes with a creamy dressing. I bet it’s even more.

  3. Pizza Express does a 1000 calorie salad. i think this sort of thing should be illegal – so unfair! If I decide to blow 1000 calories in one go i want it to be a tub of Ben n Jerrys or a bottle of wine… not a bit of green leaf and some cold chicken!

    • The mayor of New York was trying to ban super-sized soda. Not sure what happened to this idea. Seriously, though, a lot of salads have more calories than people think they do. People think they are being healthy, but they’re not. I think Caesar salad is loaded with calories when served with a creamy dressing. And restaurants here now have to tell you how many calories there are in the dishes. Puts you off your food when you find out.

  4. Sorry I know this is a fairly old post by now, but I had to leave my two cents! I love this salad. The salad dressing is olive oil based, there are at least a 1/6th c of almonds and if you check out the fat content in edamame, you might be suprised!

    • I loved this salad too, but I think there might have been a lot of fat in the dressing but it’s probably mostly good fat. Sadly, I don’t have a Trader Joe’s near me any more – I am now in London. What I wouldn’t give for a good salad these days, even one with a high fat content.

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