Friday, May 18, 2007

Great Salad at Panera!

One of my biggest pet peeves is restaurant salads covered with crap, that have no nutritional value and/or are high in fat and calories. One example would be McDonald's. Do you remember their huge advertising campaign a few years ago promoting the then-new salads sold with a pedometer and bottled water? The salads were just iceberg lettuce with a grape tomato or two, cheese, a high-calorie dressing and breaded, deep-fried chicken.

Well, today I discovered Panera's new Grilled Salmon Salad! It features a nice combination of greens in a variety of deep colors, roasted red peppers, uncut green beans, red onions and more. It is topped by a nice-sized piece of salmon that was moist and tasty. The dressing is a lemon vinaigrette.

The salad weighs 13.5 oz. and has, get this, only 340 calories! Calories from fat - 120 with no trans fats. (A little higher than I would like.) Check out all of the nutritional info at the Panera web site

The salad gets a couple of minor dings. 1) I'm not sure the salmon was really "grilled." It had black marks, but it had the texture of poached salmon. I really don't care. 2) The dressing was slightly bland until I got to the end and then there was just too much. There are several low-fat dressing options if you want to try something other than the lemon vinaigrette.

Pair it with a whole grain baguette or an apple (skip the chips, though they have great chips) and it's perfect for lunch.

Compare it to the Arby's Santa Fe Salad, one of my previous favorite fast-food choices, until I found out how many calories it had. With the regular dressing and fried chicken it is 796 calories! (602 calories with grilled chicken, but even when I requested grilled, I usually ended up with fried.)

I've had much more expensive salads that were not as good. Though I've seen higher quality salmon on a salad, this one costs less than $7, has great greens and a very reasonable calorie count!

It is really nice that someone is actually preparing an affordable salad that is not a nutritional nightmare. I will definitely be back for this one. I'll also check the Panera web site to find other salads to try.

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