Just Salad Review

NYC has salad bars located on just about every corner.  Salads tend to be a big hit for a nutritious lunch.  I decided to get a salad from one of the chains and break it down for you to see how much really went into the salad!

Just Salad is a lunch hot spot with five locations offering salads and salad wraps.  Chef Laura designed the menu, and as a Registered Dietitian, she added some more unusual, healthy toppings that are not available at your other salad bars.  Some of these toppings include: barley, butternut squash, edamame, eggplant, lentils, multigrain croutons, wheat berries, turkey bacon, hummus, and salmon.  They also offer a wide variety of dressings that are labeled as: no cholesterol, no sugar, no carbs, low carb, gluten free, low sodium, no dairy, and vegan.

InteriorIt was evident that the ingredients are very fresh, and the restaurant is spotless.  What sets this place apart from others is that the toppings all have proper portioned serving pieces so that the server uses the “right” amount.  Then you can go to the Just Salad website to figure out the nutrition information of your salad.

ToppingsFor purpose of experimentation and future comparison with other salad bars, I did not choose their exotic ingredients.  Instead, I went with one of my favorite combinations:

  • spinach
  • broccoli
  • beets
  • chickpeas
  • dried cranberries
  • goat cheese
  • grilled chicken
  • low fat balsamic vinaigrette

Just SaladAccording to their website my salad (not including the bread) contains:

  • 532 calories, 18 grams fat, 8 grams sat fat, 54 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams fiber, and 40 grams protein

According to my calculations (I took it apart & weighed each component) the salad contains:

  • 656 calories, 17 grams fat, 7 grams sat fat, 100 grams carbohydrate, 13 grams fiber, and 48 grams protein

Hmmm…why do you think the calories are so off?  Well, when my server did use the proper portion cups he piled it over the top.  And for a few ingredients he used his hands (dried cranberries & chickpeas).  You can also tell in the photo that the cheese was wrapped for proper portion control, but it turns out that this was a smaller piece than accounted for in their nutrition count, weighing in at 0.8 oz instead of a full ounce.

It turns out that they added 1/2 cup or 190 calories worth of dried cranberries to my salad!!  No wonder the nutritional stats are higher.  Most of these salad ingredients are not particularly nutrient dense, so if they use a little more or less it will not affect the calories that much.

The other thing to note is that the small container of salad dressing that I got on the side contains 4 Tablespoons!  That is too much for a salad, and if it was filled with regular salad dressing it would probably contain upwards of 300 calories.  So even if you get it on the side, choose low fat (not fat free since they are usually loaded with sugar), and use no more than half!  If you need more moisture ask for vinegar on the salad.

After weighing my salad, I placed it on a plate for me to eat.  I only used 2 TB of the dried cranberries, and about 1/3 of the dressing container.   Including the 0.4 oz piece of bread my meal clocked in at a reasonable:

  • 505 calories, 13 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 59 grams carbohydrate, 9 grams fiber and 48 grams protein

Salad

Just Salad Pros

  • Very fresh ingredients
  • Clean restaurant
  • Great variety of toppings
  • Portion controlled serving pieces
  • Nutritional Information on website
  • Perfectly blanched broccoli

Just Salad Cons

  • Servers did not pay attention to portion size serving pieces
  • Beets were canned
  • Very expensive (this salad was over $11)!
  • Chicken was salty

Nutrition Tidbit: Salad Bars

  • When choosing calorie dense toppings: cheese, nuts, dried fruits, tortilla strings and croutons tell the server to only use a little.  Otherwise they can be very heavy handed and you may be getting more than you bargained for.
  • Ask for the dressing on the side, but that doesn’t give you free reign to use it all!
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10 Responses

  1. What a fun review! I love salad bars like that. 😀 Your salad creation looks lovely!

    I also love your tips…thanks! 😀

  2. Again, this post was really informative! It’s crazy how easily calories can add up with a heavy handed server! I usually order the same combo – chickpeas, corn, sundried tomatoes, olives and cucumbers with low fat french dressing on the side. Never disappoints 🙂

  3. Thank you for your comment at my blog. Means alot especially coming from a nutritionist. Your salad post makes me want one for lunch. Sometimes I dread eating salad but after I throw everything together, it actually tastes great. I really like that they have measuring spoons in each item’s container. I measure my food most of the time and it surprises me how little 1 serving of something is. However, I normally find that after I eat that one serving that I am satisfied. Otherwise, I would have eaten the whole thing.

  4. this was a great post! It’s amazing how much they really pile on there when we all think salads are the healthy choice. I always request dressing on the side and watch out for extra toppings. That business sounds really neat though, my kind of thing! RD and chef 🙂 I think they need to have a meeting abut proper serving portions because that can also change how they order and go through ingredients, all those little extras can add up in more ways than one!
    -kristen

  5. Just found your blog. Love it! That is a pricey salad! Dried fruit can really add calories-I try to only add a little bit. I do like the sweetness though!

  6. Wow, what a cool experiment. This place sounds awesome overall, but it’s too bad that the measurements were off…and it’s so pricey! But overal, I wish there were more places like this in the UK!

  7. I’m eating my $11+ salad right now and wondering how many calories it has. There are way too many raisins and sunflower seeds and although I’m trying to avoid them, I bet I’m still consuming more calories than a healthy lunch should be. Yeah, having the dressing on the side is totally key. They drench it otherwise. Even if you use the whole side container (which I don’t) it’s still less than if they mix it in. I love that you weighed every ingredient. Very interesting…

  8. One of my clients LOVES this place. Great review. I wish they were organic.

  9. I loved reading this! I used to get those “toss your own” salads a lot when I lived in the city and always wondered how accurate the calculations were,,. The menu looks great!

  10. Those allot of great advice on this subject.
    I ran across web site running a different search and yet found your material concerning this subject being very worthwhile.
    Thank you for sharing

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