There's a reason this is first on the list. It's because the mayo that comes on restaurant sandwiches is almost always of the full-fat variety... and almost never worth the extra calories and fat grams. We're talking nearly 100 calories and ten-plus fat grams in each little tablespoon! Instead, go for mustard and/or ketchup. And if hot sauce is available, shake it on. (Sorry, T. Swift.) For more topper options, click here for 15 condiments with 15 calories or less.
Crispy (a.k.a. fried) Toppings
Restaurants love to pile on the crispy fried toppings. Wonton strips, tortilla chips, onion strings, crunchy noodles, fried jalapeño rings… These troublemakers can easily turn an ordinary sandwich or salad into a calorie fest. Don't worry: There are plenty of smart ways to get your crunch on. Opt for pickle chips, raw veggies (like onion and peppers), pickled jalapeños or banana peppers, or a small amount of sliced almonds.
Heavy Dressings... Including Vinaigrettes
It's not just the obvious skips, people. We all suspect that bacon-ranch dressing is calorically disastrous... We figure the Caesar dressing is fat-tastic... But the standard vinaigrettes? Sad to say, those are generally a mess too. Especially considering the fact that the average restaurant salad comes with the equivalent of two to three servings of dressing... up to 600 calories! Old-school bottles of oil and vinegar are your best bet: Add a good splash of vinegar, a drizzle of oil, and some salt and pepper. Tomato-based picks, like BBQ sauce and salsa, are also solid options.
This is one of those items that we need to include here... but we'll allow for exceptions. If your salad or sandwich is already pretty stripped down, and you could use some meat-free protein in there, cheese can be a good way to go. But be super conscious when cheese is just another calorie-packed layer on an already substantial meal. When it comes to salads, it’s all about the type of cheese. Some give you a lot of flavor for relatively low calorie counts. A sprinkle of shaved Parm or crumbled feta? Sure. A mound of shredded cheddar? Pass.
Chicken breast, roasted turkey, and deli ham are all A-OK, but beef and other pork picks are generally on the fattier side. Ix-nay anything fried... even the lean stuff. Those fried-fish sandwiches are bad news! And heads up: Ground chicken and turkey burgers are often fattier than you might suspect; whole cuts of white meat are the way to go. And we love bacon too, but you're better off getting your fix DIY-style at home.
Restaurants love to concoct crazy sauces for their sandwiches. Aiolis, creamy pestos… Chances are, they're heavy in the calorie department. (Sorry; truth bomb.) But sometimes that spead's the main draw of that particular item. Your best course of action in that situation? Skip that sauce in the moment, but take note of what exactly appeals to you -- fresh herbs, chipotle flavor, sun-dried tomatoes, etc. -- and then re-create it at home. Start with light mayo or fat-free Greek yogurt, and zazzle it up!
We're always a little confused by random pasta on salads -- what's the point? Leave off those needless noodles! And while we hardly need to tell you this is a bad idea, a recent trend at hipster sandwich joints is mac 'n cheese sandwiches. Uh-uh, weirdos. This isn't even a swap-for-something-else situation. Just ditch the silliness.
These suckers can be sneaky, but look out for keywords like "marinated," "grilled," and "sautéed" -- a lot of times, those words are code for "soaked with oil." Eggplant is a huge offender on this front, since it's basically an oil sponge. This is how the calorie count on an otherwise smart-sounding sandwich or salad can turn out disastrous. Stick to fresh veggies... You'll be glad you did.
Unnecessary Bread Items
We're talking croutons. We're talking the why-are-you-here piece of garlic bread that shows up with your salad. We're even talking about the top piece of bread on your sandwich! Those croutons are just a waste of calories, and they're not worth the effort it takes to spear 'em with your fork. As for that sandwich bread, if you wanna save some serious calories, consider getting your sandwich fixins wrapped in lettuce. The filling's the best part anyway!
Nuts = full of healthy fats, fiber, and protein. Candied nuts = good-for-you stuff cooked in oil and sugar. BOO! This is an easy call. If your salad features 'em, request that they be left off. Or look for a pick that has simply roasted nuts.