Trendy salad eatery Sweetgreen is a fast-casual haven for healthy eaters. Whatever location across the country you frequent, when you walk through the door, you’re immediately hit with a faint whiff of kale—and the sight of an out-the-door line if you go during peak hours.
Maybe you’ve come to Sweetgreen because you’re an OAHE, aka an Over Achieving Healthy Eater. For you, it’s not enough to order a bowl full of greens; you want your compostable salad bowl to be filled with the most nutrient dense ingredients ever. (Hey, you’re shelling out $15 for this, you might as well get your money’s worth.)
Because OAHEs often subscribe to a specific meal plan, I enlisted registered dietitian Karen Collins, RD, for advice on the healthiest salads to order for ketogenic, vegan, and Mediterranean diet eaters. Here, she shares her recs on what to get, whether you want to go with something on the menu as-is, or you want to build your own bowl. Keep reading to see her tips and get ready to walk out the door with the healthiest lunch ever.
Menu picks: Guacamole greens; kale Caesar
What an RD says: According to Collins, both the kale Caesar (a classic salad order if there ever was one) and the guacamole greens are great keto wins because they’re low carb, yet high in fiber and protein. The avocado in the guac greens adds healthy fats, and you can add one to the kale Caesar for the same omega-3-rich benefits.
Order tweaks: Collins recommends ordering the guac greens bowl without the tortilla chips to make it lower in carbs. When ordering the kale Caesar, she recommends going light to medium on the dressing (not heavy) to cut the carbs down a couple grams.
If you want to make your own: Opting to go off the menu instead? Collins has a few tips to keep in mind when making a nutrient-rich keto salad: “Stick with greens as your base, chicken as a low-carb, high-protein add-in, and choose either the jalapeno vinaigrette or pesto vinaigrette as your dressing,” she says.
Looking for more healthy to-go lunch orders? Here’s what an RD likes to nab at Chipotle:
Menu picks: Shroomami; spicy Thai
What an RD says: Sweetgreen has several vegetarian and vegan menu options, and the shroomami and the spicy Thai are Collins’ two favorite for vegans. “I like that they have both tofu and sunflower seeds for protein,” she says. And of course, because of the greens, you’re getting plenty of fiber, too. She also points out that even the dressings offered with these picks are vegan, so you don’t have to make any changes to the order whatsoever.
Order tweaks: None needed.
If you want to make your own: Sweetgreen has several meat-free protein options to add to your bowl such as chickpeas, tofu, and sunflower seeds. Then fill your bowl with greens and your favorite veggies, and go with an oily dressing (which won’t have dairy).
Menu picks: Spicy Thai; curry chickpea bowl
What an RD says: There’s a tendency with the Med diet to naturally gravitate toward dishes traditional to the Mediterranean region, but Collins says sticking to this eating plan is more about the idea of prioritizing plant-based foods and eating more fish than meat, not necessarily zeroing in on the menu option featuring tahini. (Although hey, tahini is pretty delicious IMO.) One pick that she’s into is the spicy Thai (a repeat winner), which uses tofu and sunflower seeds as the proteins, and corn, cabbage, and greens for fiber. The curry chickpea bowl is another one Collins recommends due to its abundance in plant-based protein, fiber, and flavor.
Order tweaks: None needed.
If you want to make your own: Unlike keto, grains are a Med diet staple, so Collins says if you want to build your own bowl, you can use either greens or grains as your base. If your Sweetgreen location doesn’t have salmon on the menu as a protein, she says to choose one of the plant-based options, such as chickpeas, tofu, or lentils. Then, round it out with other veggies you love and top it off with an oil-based dressing for a serving of healthy fats.
If you’re making a salad at home, here are some ideas for what to put into it. And if your salad is making you feel bloated, this could be why.
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