Caesar Salad Deconstructed

Keeping a good relationship with food is key to a healthy lifestyle. Thinking of what (and how much of it) is in each thing you eat will help you make better nutrition decisions. Now, not everyone has the time to think about these things while eating. The posts in this series will help you gain that ballpark knowledge of everyday items we have. If you like this analysis, please feel free to request more items.

In this post, I will analyze and deconstruct a salad. The salad of choice today is a Classic Caesar Salad that I found in Bon Appetit Magazine. Many people believe they’re eating healthy when they eat a salad, so let’s take a closer look at what’s going on, and I’ll follow with my analysis and weight management suggestions.

The following table depicts the recipe and displays the calories of each ingredient. According to Bon Appetit, the recipe serves 6. I wouldn’t consider it more than a side salad and double the portion if I wanted to make it an entree.

QtyUnitFoodCalories (kcal)% of Total

Dressing

1

clove

garlic clove

4.47

1

pinch

kosher salt

0

2

tbsp

fresh lemon juice

6.71

0.75

tsp

dijon mustard

2.3

2

tbsp

olive oil

238.68

10.29%

0.5

cup

vegetable oil

963.56

41.55%

3

tbsp

grated parmesan

70.88

1

pinch

ground black pepper

0.33

Totals

1286.97

55.49%

Croutons

3

cups

bread

319.2

3

tbsp

olive oil

358.02

15.44%

Totals

677.22

29.2%

Lettuce

3

heart

romaine hearts

116.79

5.04%

Cheese

2

oz

parmesan cheese

238.14

10.27%

Grand Total

2319.12

Per Portion (6)

386.52

Percentage of Oil

67.28%

Deconstruction of Bon Appetit’s Classic Caesar Salad

Highlights:

  • Lettuce takes most of the physical volume.
  • Only 5% of each portion’s calories is lettuce.
  • 67% of each potion is oil (olive or vegetable).
  • 14% of the recipe is bread.
  • 10% is parmesan cheese. For those who don’t know it, cheese is typically fat and protein. To be precise, 28% of it is fat and 28% protein.
  • The original recipe doesn’t specify the amount of parmesan, so I assumed two servings of it for the entire salad.

What an excellent way of eating oil with bread! Energy-wise, lettuce barely adds anything. It primarily adds micronutrients like iron. If it weren’t for the croutons, I’d even dare to say that this salad fits the keto target macros.

Analysis

Is this salad healthy? If you go backpacking and everything you have is a bottle of oil, you could keep taking sips of it and get the energy you need to keep going. It doesn’t sound too appetizing, but from the energetic perspective, it will do the trick. You might also read on the internet nutrition advice encouraging you to consume olive oil for its anti-oxidant properties. The bread is the only highly processed component. The rest of the items from the dressing will bring all kinds of micronutrients. None of these remove the fact that you’re eating garnished oil. I’m not a nutritionist, so I can’t talk about how healthy or not it is to eat vegetable oils. You can refer to this article on HealthLine to expand on the subject.

Weight Management Analysis

In terms of weight management, our bodies digest oils slowly. This fact makes the salad a great tool if your goal is to induce yourself into a calorie deficit because you will feel satisfied for longer. One serving of this salad will give you potentially a 200 ~ 300 cal deficit if you take it as an entire meal (I target my meals to be around 500 ~ 600 cal each to keep my current weight.) With the assumption that you can weigh it and serve the right portion.

Overeating this salad will quickly transform it into a calorie surplus. I’d say: proceed with caution.

I would personally not cut down on the oil, even if I’m targeting a calorie deficit. Reducing the amount of oil will drastically reduce the total calories and you might not feel satisfied at all. This might potentially lead to an episode of fog or storm eating.

This analysis applies to many of the salads that are out there when they only differ on the veggies. Beware of salads with seeds or nuts, as those will make the calorie count go up drastically. Seeds and nuts are also primarily fat.

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