Salad bars can be as dangerous to your diet as fast-food restaurants if you aren’t careful, say nutritionists. "I don’t think people realize that with portion sizes, if you add all the items up, you can add on the calories," said Jenny Gardner, a registered and licensed dietitian with CoxHealth.

Salad bars have gained enormous popularity in the last few years as the healthiest option for eating out, but as the market grows more competitive, the salads have grown more extravagant — and less healthful. Salad bar consumers may run into something more dangerous than calories: bacteria or viruses that can lead to illness.

The most common bacterial causes of food poisoning are staphylococcus, listeria, and campylobacter and salmonella, according to the CDC.

A local health inspector says consumers must carefully consider the food dangers of salad bars. Unlike food that is prepared to order for individual customers, food bars and salad bars can have a greater risk of making someone ill because the food sits out for long periods, said Ron Lawson, public health investigator.

Foods that sit too long at temperatures that are either too hot or too cold can cause bacteria to grow, he added. For your health, Lawson suggests you be a pro-active customer.

"If you suspect it’s not hot enough, you can ask (the restaurant staff) ‘Is this food on temperature control, or time control?’ If they say it’s on time control, ask to see documentation on that food, which will show what time the food should be discarded. If they can’t show that and its obviously not hot enough, it’s most obviously in violation," Lawson said.