Salads-Are They Always The Healthiest Choice?
You are sitting in a restaurant, facing the dilemma of what to order. The menu is overwhelming. You decide a salad is always a safe choice. Is your assumption correct? Are salads always the healthiest choice?
Salads start out as vegetables. However, by the time all of the toppings and dressings are added in to it, the calories can actually add up to even 1000 calories with possibly 80 grams of fat in that 1 bowl! A classic Cobb salad for example may contain chopped bacon, eggs, blue cheese, avocado, and a creamy dressing. A Chicken Caesar salad with it’s creamy dressing, cheese, and croutons may contain as many calories and fat as a Big Mac.
So how can you ensure that your salad is really a healthy one? Here are some tips:
- Start by choosing a nutrient rich base. Rather than iceberg lettuce, try baby spinach, romaine, or any other type of dark green lettuce.
- Pile on the vegetables. Make it colorful including red or yellow bell peppers, carrots, sugar snap peas, broccoli, mushrooms, and red onions. The more variety of colors, the more nutritious it will be. Remember to avoid fried and marinated vegetables.
- Add in the protein. Choose a lean protein such as egg whites, skinless chicken or turkey, tuna (packed in water and prepared yourself limiting the amount of light mayonnaise), salmon, or even cubed tofu. Avoid high fat meats such as salami and bacon as well as anything breaded and/or fried.
- Beware of those extra toppings! Cheese, nuts, seeds, avocadoes, olives, and dried fruit all add extra calories, fat, and /or sugar.
- Be extra careful with your choice of dressings. Dressings can turn a regular, healthy salad into something very unhealthy. A creamy ranch, blue cheese, or Caesar dressing can add approximately 140 calories and that’s in a 1 ounce serving (2 Tbsps). When a salad is drenched in dressing, it can be double or triple that amount. Whenever possible choose a low calorie or light version, making sure it’s 30 calories or less per serving. If you are eating in a restaurant, always ask for your “light” dressing on the side so that YOU can determine how much of it you eat.
To summarize, salads are a very important part of a healthy diet, but you can’t assume that they will always be a healthy choice unless you know how they are prepared.