Salad – Friend of Foe when Eating Out?

In all honesty, I find eating-out incredibly difficult these days.  When I was Keto, it was much easier.  I could get a salad with beef/chicken/seafood, cheese, avocado, egg, and full fat dressing and be within my macros and have a great meal.  I could also easily do any steak on the menu with a salad and be satisfied.

I know it sounds counter intuitive, but my life with carbs is so much more difficult.  I have to watch the fat much more closely.  I can’t just choose any meat on the menu – it must be lean.  I don’t know about you, but unless I am eating at a fancy steak place, there are no lean cuts of beef on the menu.  So it’s chicken breast, white fish, or Salmon (if I feel like watching my fat intake the rest of the day).  If I want a salad, I have to pick carefully, and practically take everything off (minus cheese and croutons) and bring my own dressing.

You would think that ordering a salad would be safe.  There is health in a salad, or is there?
One day, my husband brought home a salad for us to share.  It was 5% romaine lettuce, 49% blue/feta cheese mixture, and 46% pepperoni/salami/ham meat mixture.

That was the first day I gasped and said, “I can’t even order a salad.”

Unless you are getting the romaine lettuce piece, there are a lot of fat and calories that are disguised as a healthy salad.  People order thinking it’s healthy, because it’s a salad, and why wouldn’t it be healthy. You just don’t think about it.

Let’s examine.


This is a good start.  Lettuce is always a good base to a healthy salad.  If you are looking to lose pounds, go for the garden type variety – and stay away from the chef, pasta, antipasto, and maybe Cesar/Greek.



In my opinion, these are standard add-ins.  They are carb laden, but on a carb diet, they add minimal grams (in the grand scheme of things).  Onions is the highest and depending upon the amount on the salad, will add 5-8g (some salads have a lot of onion). 

I will often take some of the onion off, not really to save calories, but to lessen the amount of onion-breath associated with eating wayyy too many onions.


Salad dressing

Huge fat offender.  Full fat dressings (and I rarely see a low-fat option on the menu) have up to 16g of fat for 2 Tbsp.  Those little cups they give, 4 tbsp. of dressing or more, making it 32g fat that you are adding to your salad.  That’s almost as much fat as you can have in a day if you are dieting.

If you ask for a low-fat alternative, they will suggest oil and vinegar.  Ummmm?  Oil – that’s olive oil, or the “healthier” version to make it seem like you are healthy, extra virgin olive oil – a whopping 14g of fat per tbsp.  It will take an average of 3-4 tbsp to cover that humongous salad sitting in front of you for an added 56g of fat.

Yeah, while extra virgin is a better choice, you are probably over your daily allowance in one meal – that may not be all that satisfying.

Whether it’s regular or extra virgin, your body sees it as fat, and will store it as such.

Options – bring your own dressing.  I make my own homemade dressing with homemade skyr yogurt.  Per 2 tbsp., it’s only 1.6g of fat.  And it’s not full of chemicals like other low-fat dressings, and it’s delicious (it doesn’t taste fake or oily).

If you don’t want to bring your own, balsamic vinegar.  It’s carb laden, but we have more carbs than fat in our diet.  We can take 5-10g of carbs, and it’s really great on a salad.

If you order dressing, get it on the side, and dab it on sparingly.



I like cheese.  But per ounce, at 9g protein and 7g of fat – I count it as a fat-laden food.

When cheese is added to a salad, do you think it’s an ounce?  If you have ever measured an ounce of cheese, it’s not too much.  Most salads will have 2+ ounces – adding 14-21g of fat to your already 40g of fat that is hiding in your dressing.


What to do?

Order the salad without the cheese, or often, I ask for it on the side (especially when it’s feta.  I like feta).  This way, I can control what I eat – putting it on me.

If you haven’t noticed, I like to be in control.


Other add-ins

And they are a lot here.  Avocado, boiled eggs, olives – all fat laden and all make a salad delicious. 

But you ask, olives are part of the Mediterranean diet and I should be able to eat them.

NO, not necessarily.

Olives, avocados, eggs are all very healthy choices that you can feel good about eating.  They all add healthy fats – true.  But when your salad already has 60g of fat on it, and you have exceeded your daily allowance – and then some – you really shouldn’t be having an avocado, you know what I am saying?

While eggs are small and definite – you can count pretty reliably on 5g of fat and 7g of protein per egg, a whole avocado can give you more than 30g of fat – depending upon the size.  And while it’s healthy, it’s still a lot of fat.

And here is the bad news.  Just because it’s healthy doesn’t mean you can mindlessly eat it.


Getting fit and loosing weight is an active process.  You can’t mindlessly do anything.

So here is how I deal…


Have priorities

 I prioritize everything. 

I prioritize lean meats over all other meats.  I prefer to get my fats from avocados, whole eggs and nuts, so I eat an animal-fat lean diet.  I enjoy avocados, eggs and nuts, but I don’t eat an endless supply.  75% of the fats I consume are from avocado, eggs and nuts – which are weighed and measured.  So in a restaurant, if I opt for a salad, I will opt for grilled (preferably as blackened typically has butter) salmon or chicken breast, no cheese, homemade dressing, and just the veggies, so that I can afford to have my serving of almonds or homemade almond butter after dinner. 

If I am in a salmon mood, I plan for 30g of fat for the salmon, which means that I am not eating avocado on the salad.

If there are eggs/avocados on the salad, I will ask for only 1 egg.  Typically, you only get 1/4 to 1/2 of an avocado, anyway, so I count 50-125g depending upon the size of the avocado slices on the plate.  I’m pretty good with estimating because I have spent a lot of time weighing and measuring different size avocados.


Sometimes salads are too difficult Here are some other ideas

If something is difficult, then it’s not fun.  I have  gotten used to custom ordering things, but it’s not for everyone. 

Plus, sometimes I just don’t feel like it.  Like, the salad is just too much.

So then I order from the side menu.  I have an order of egg whites, an English muffin (no butter) and turkey bacon/sausage, and I make an egg white sandwich!

I just did that a few days ago.




It’s really good (might have one of those for breakfast – with a homemade English muffin).  It’s easy. It’s filling, and keeps me on track and moving forward to my goals!

Another option when things are hard, is fast.  Just fast through the meal and eat when you get home.  Been there/done that.  I will often get Perrier – which helps with the hunger (if there is any). 

I’m used to watching people eat, and people are used to me watching them eat, so it’s really no big thing for me.

Another option, bring your own food.  Been there/done that, too.  I will bring chicken breast/egg sandwich on my homemade sandwich thins, English muffin, or wrapped into a high fiber tortilla.  This works for picnics, restaurants, or if you have a full day outing and you need a snack.


Just for full disclosure, I typically stay away from restaurant food if I can.  I try to eat out no more than once every 3-4 months – simply because you can’t control how things are cooked.  They are often cooked in unhealthy oils (everything is cooked on the same grill). 

Since I track, I will typically add at least 10g of fat to every meal – just because of the uncertainty.


What do you order when you dine in a restaurant?


About Lisa

Hey! Thank you so much for stopping by. I'm Lisa - a homeschool mom of 3 (2 boys and 1 girl). I care about the strength of the family in America, and often blog about babies/kids, natural parenting, homeschool, and marriage. Before you leave, please sign up for my monthly newsletter (on the top right). If you do, you will be well rewarded with notification of all giveaways and sales - which will not be announced on the blog. Google+ Profile


  1. Lisa, I like reading about what/how people eat. What do I order in a restaurant? Probably something quite different from you since I eat a different way. I don’t really limit my consumption of the good fats (organic butter, extra virgin olive oil, grassfed meat, nuts, seeds, avocado, etc), but strictly avoid the bad ones (trans fats, shortening, margarine, vegetable oil, etc). And I don’t count carbs when it comes to vegetables. I strictly limit my sugar intake (in any form–sugar, molasses, honey, ketchup, barbecue sauce, salad dressings, “hidden” sugar) to never more than 25 grams in a day; but most days I have none, since that 25-gram limit quickly eliminates sugar cravings. And I limit my flour consumption in a less rigid way. My husband laughs at my idea of a peanut butter “sandwich”–a heaping tablespoon of peanut butter eaten from the spoon! 😀 Hey, whatever works, right? #MMBH
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