Choose Wisely: Soup and Salad bar at Shrine Restaurant, Belleville, Illinois

I once had a coworker who ate almost nothing besides soups and salads for lunch and dinner. Her breakfast was always a banana and yogurt. She never ate a donut or indulged in birthday cakes. I never once saw her eat a hamburger. Yet she always seemed to struggle somewhat with her weight. Then one day she discovered that the salad she’d occasionally order from Taco Bell had over 700 calories and more than 30 grams of fat!

The word “salad” doesn’t automatically mean low calorie and low fat, and a soup and salad bar is only as healthy as the choices you make. It’s easy to choose wisely when the options are as varied as they are at the Shrine Restaurant at The National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois, as long as you are mindful of what you take and the quantity you consume. On Monday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the restaurant offers an all-you-care-to-eat soup and salad buffet with eight different house-made soups, over 30 salad items, and fresh-baked dinner rolls.

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Shrine Restaurant Soups

Six soups are the same every day for a period of time and two additional rotate daily. When I visited in early December, the regular soups included some broth-based, like Beef Barley and Italian Wedding Soup and some creamy soups, like Sweet Potato Bisque and Cheddar Broccoli. The daily choices, because I was there on a Monday, were Chicken Noodle and Steak Soup.

Shrine Restaurant Soup BarThe cups are small, so you can enjoy more than one variety. When making your selections, the wise choice is to stick with the broth-based soups or to limit the quantity of cream-based if you really want to try them. I chose Chicken Noodle, my favorite, which was full of large chicken chunks and thick noodles, but I also wanted to try the Sweet Potato Bisque. Because the server didn’t know whether cream was an ingredient, I stuck with just a taste of it, about a quarter cup. It tasted almost like a warm soup dessert with a generous amount of cinnamon in it.

Shrine Restaurant Salads

The salad bar consists of a large bin of plain greens and another of Shrine Salad, greens with a buttermilk dressing. Besides the typical cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and other fresh vegetables, there are many ready-made salad options plus cottage cheese and fruit, as well as toppings like chopped egg, shredded cheese, bacon bits, croutons and sunflower seeds.

Shrine Restaurant Salad BarOf course, the healthiest choices are plain vegetables, but you’ll probably want to dress your salad up a bit. For ready-made salads, choose vinegar-based over creamy or mayonnaise-based. Toppings and salad dressings can pack on calories and fat, so instead of taking some of everything, limit it to what you really want and take just a small amount.

I stuck with fresh veggies instead of the ready-made salads and topped it with a little egg, three or four croutons for some crunch, and a small helping of sunflower seeds. Be mindful of the amount of dressing you pour over the salad. A serving size is two tablespoons, but it’s easy to overdo when you’re pouring it on with a ladle. I usually only sprinkle a little vinegar on my salad, but I didn’t see the cruets of plain oil and vinegar at first, as they were on another table rather than being placed on the salad bar. I ended up drizzling a little poppy seed dressing on it, which was tasty but can have over 150 calories per serving.

The warm, freshly baked rolls are hard to resist, especially with fresh, real butter, so figure that in to your total calorie intake if you indulge.

When I estimated my total calorie and fat intake, it was about the same as many of the other meals that I’d had on the four-day trip. I felt better, though, knowing that for the most part, what I consumed was healthier and more nutritious than most of my other meals.

TIPS:

  • Choose broth-based soups over cream based, or take just small amounts of cream based to taste them.
  • Limit the toppings you put on your salad, and skip mayonnaise- or cream-based dressings.
  • Be careful of the amount of dressing you put on your salad. Remember than a serving is two tablespoons.

The Shrine Restaurant, located at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, 442 South De Mazenod Drive in Belleville, Illinois (off of I-255, Exit 17A), serves lunch and dinner seven days a week. However, the soup-and-salad buffet is available only for lunch Monday through Saturday. Check the web site for hours and other menu choices.

Disclosure: I am not a dietitian, nutritionist or in any medical or health-related field. Please consult your physician before beginning any weight loss or exercise program.

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