Should you order a salad or a bowl?

Salads get an upgrade

“Order a salad.” That’s the standard “what to get at a restaurant” advice if you’re trying to eat healthier. But some restaurant salads turn out to be ho-hum variations on a garden or Caesar salad.

Lately, a few chains have upped their game and are piling on more nutritious toppings. Here are two that are worth a try:

The Cheesecake Factory’s six impressive Super Foods salads are indeed super…if you take home half. They start with a bed of greens and toss in things like beans, fruit, nuts, avocado, and whole grains (and, for an extra charge, grilled shrimp, salmon, chicken, or steak). Our faves:

  • Almond-Crusted Salmon (salmon, kale, shaved brussels sprouts, arugula, avocado, quinoa, cranberries, radishes, shallot vinaigrette)—1,200 calories and 37 grams of protein.
  • Kale and Quinoa (kale, quinoa, grapes, sweet red pepper, sunflower seeds, parmesan, lemon vinaigrette)—980 calories and 21 grams of protein.
  • Falafel (romaine lettuce, kale, tomato, cucumber, onion, feta cheese, pita chips, greek-yogurt-lemon dressing and topped with crispy falafel)—780 calories and 21 grams of protein.Cheesecake

And don’t forget about The Factory’s notable French Country Salad and Fresh Vegetable Salad on their SkinnyLicious menu.

BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse’s Enlightened Superfood salads are equally impressive. The 440-calorie Kale and Roasted Brussels Sprouts (baby kale, herb-roasted brussels sprouts, romaine, blueberries, red grapes, dried cranberries, goat cheese, cucumber, candied pecans, toasted pepitas, red onions, strawberry vinaigrette) and the 460-calorie The Super Salad (baby kale, romaine, quinoa, sliced apples, blueberries, jicama, sweet corn, asparagus, diced cucumber, tomatoes, apple vinaigrette) follow the same playbook as The Cheesecake Factory’s Super Food salads. Bravo!

Bottom line: Wherever you eat, go for salads  that are loaded with flavor-packed veggies. Watching your weight? Watch the dressing.

Watch what’s in your bowl

Plates are out, bowls are in. But a dish that packs an entire meal—vegetables, lean protein or beans, and whole grains—into one bowl can be a healthy dining find…or a fraud. Two examples:

  • Pei Wei. “Noodles that nourish,” promise signs inside the fast-casual Asian chain. What’s so nourishing about a Noodle Bowl with 1,000 to 1,600 calories of white or rice flour noodles, chicken or steak and shrimp, only a smattering of veggies, and enough sauce to hit 3,000 to 7,000 milligrams of sodium (two to four days’ worth)?
  • Sweetgreen. The salad chain’s irresistible Shroomami Warm Bowl (wild rice, kale, beets, bean sprouts, basil, spicy sunflower seeds, warm portobellos, roasted sesame tofu, miso sesame ginger dressing) has just 640 calories. (Swap the raw sprouts for shredded cabbage.) Too high? Sweetgreen lets you build your own salad.

Bottom line: Bowls are only a “find” if they’re mostly veggies.sweetgreen

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