Salads Done Right
Salads can either help or harm your diet. Here’s how.
Salads are a great way to eat fewer calories and ensure you’re eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. Since a bowl full of lettuce has a lot fewer calories than a plate full of pasta, it’s no wonder so many people turn to salads in their weight-loss efforts.
Unfortunately, many people forget that salad toppings are often high in calories, unhealthy fats, sodium, and even sugar. Yes, it may be a salad, but your salad may be doing you more harm than a cheeseburger. Go for a crispy chicken oriental salad and expect to munch on nearly 1,500 calories!
Want to salad right? You’ll want to take it easy on a few ingredients or avoid them altogether.
Ingredient 1: Croutons
They may add a nice crunch to your salad, but croutons add calories and little nutritional value. Typically consisting of fried or toasted bread that’s made with refined, white grains, croutons add up the carbs in your salad. Be careful when you look at the ingredient label for croutons. A serving size may be listed as two tablespoons—that’s just two croutons. You likely eat a lot more than two on your salad.
Ingredient 2: Creamy Dressings
Your salad could be filled with the healthiest ingredients, but if you add a creamy dressing, you could be undoing all the good. Ranch, blue cheese, Caesar, and thousand island are a few high-calorie offenders that contain more than 100 calories in just two tablespoons. Vinaigrette dressings are often the safest choice.
Ingredient 3: Processed Meats
If you want a source of protein in your salad, you’d better look beyond the bacon and deli meats. High in calories, sodium, and unhealthy fat, bacon isn’t healthy, no matter how it’s prepared. And sadly for the bacon lover, bacon-flavored bits are no better.
And neither are processed deli meats. Though salami and ham may provide protein, they’re high in sodium, nitrates, and calories.
Ingredient 4: Cheese
Cheese isn’t completely unhealthy—it provides calcium and protein—but it’s also high in calories and saturated fat. Adding a little cheese shouldn’t harm your diet, but don’t go overboard. One ounce is considered a safe serving size.
Ingredient 5: Fried Things
Any time you see ingredients listed on a menu that are described as crispy, crusted, crunchy, battered, or breaded, it almost always means they’re fried. Fried chicken, shrimp, or fish add high amounts of calories and fat, even if they’re fried in healthy oils.
Wontons are added to many Asian-style salads for crunch and flavor. But like croutons, these fried pieces of dough provide little to no nutritional value and only increase the calorie count of your salad.
Sometimes even the salad bowl is fried. A fried taco bowl can add more than 200 calories and 11 grams of fat to your once healthy salad.
Ingredient 6: Added Sugars
If you’re trying to watch your sugar intake, then beware of salad ingredients with added sugars. This is often a salad topping that’s coated in honey. Nuts, fish, and chicken add flavor and protein to a salad, but if they’re coated in a honey glaze, then they’re high in sugar and calories.
Fruit is also a healthy salad addition, but watch out for dried fruit, which is high in sugar. A quarter cup can contain a full day’s worth of sugar!
You may think you’re doing yourself a favor by choosing a fat-free dressing, but many fat-free dressings substitute sugar for fat to improve the flavor.
So salad on, but stay smart for a delicious and healthy snack or meal!
Build a healthy salad with plenty of leafy greens, raw vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, fruit, eggs, herbs, and grilled chicken or fish.