My Salad Days, When I Was Green in Judgment

Sweetgreen's "fish taco" salad

It’s the new year so of course I’m standing in line at Sweetgreen waiting to order my salad. This despite a story in the Weekend section of the Washington Post warning us that many of those salads are rather unhealthy.

"The biggest pitfall at these restaurants is the amount of sodium lurking," writes Casey Seidenberg. "It’s widely accepted that we should limit the element to 2,300 to 3,000 mg a day. But one serving of Mexican chicken soup at Chop’t has 1,030 mg of sodium, and a grain bowl at Cava can quickly reach 2,000 mg."

I’ve often pondered that Mexican chicken soup, wondering if it’s worth it. Glad to know it’s not—besides, the sandwich shop in my building has a New England clam chowder that’s amazing!

Aside from sodium, Seidenberg reminds us about portion size, citing a nutrionist who suggests "the bowls can quickly become more than one serving, especially at Cava, where there isn’t a set menu with balanced combinations." Says the nutrionist: "The serving sizes are large especially for people who are getting older and may not be able to digest that much food. Consider taking half home for dinner."

I’m usually famished after eating one of those Cava bowls, and now I’m supposed save half for dinner? I’m pretty sure I would not make it to dinner.

My favorite three words on a menu: fried seafood platter. But there were three words in this article that sent chills down my spine: plant-based proteins. Apparently this is the healthier route. "You can’t lose when you stick to a base of dark leafy greens or a whole grain and then pile on the vegetables," writes Seidenberg. "Kale, spinach or the other heartier mixes at Cava and Chop’t provide broader nutrition than romaine. The addition of quinoa or lentils delivers a boost of balanced protein."

Notice how romaine is no longer fashionable. It’s not a dark, leafy green—it might as well be iceberg. It also doesn’t help that the country was in a panic about romaine because of the recent E. coli outbreak. Remember when romaine was the darling lettuce? Someone should write a piece about the Rise and Fall of the Romaine Empire (sorry!).

As I get to the front of the line at Sweetgreen, I decide on the fish taco, featuring a steelhead fish mixed into the arugula (Seidenberg is a fan of the steelhead for its omega-3). It’s also got shredded cabbage, cilantro, and warm quinoa (delish!) drizzled in a lime cilantro jalapeño vinaigrette. The downside: tortilla chips (double trouble because of sodium and carbs). Yet I am fairly certain the salad guy grabbed only two chips’ worth.

Another downside: The salad cost $12.93.

While I was waiting for my fish taco salad, my phone received a text notification from McDonald’s: "The Wizards led through the first quarter! Get a FREE Large Fries with any purchase."

It’s a cruel start to the new year.