The Healthy Salad: Tips to Avoid Salad Sabotage

Think you’re making a lean choice by opting for a salad instead of your standard burger and fries? If you’re trying to adhere to a low calorie, low carb diet, it’s normal to trade in a greasy meal for a pile of leafy greens. But don’t think you’re saving any calories or getting more nutrition when you eat a salad loaded with breaded chicken, cheddar cheese, and a creamy dressing.

For example, TGIF’s Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad comes in at 1080 calories, 16g sat. fat, 76g carbs, and 1,650mg of sodium. I’d rather have the burger!

Below are some tips on how to keep your salad healthy. Take advantage of these tips — and know which death traps to avoid — to make salad a lean, nutritious experience EVERY time.

  1. Instead of Iceberg or Romaine lettuce, choose dark green leafy veggies as your base, such a kale, spinach, arugula, or dandelion greens. These options have far higher nutrient and antioxidant levels than romaine lettuce.
  2. Avoid dried fruits such as cranberries. Dried fruits contain added refined sugar and preservatives, dried cranberries only add unneeded calories to your salad. Plus, dried fruit typically has up to 80% of its nutrients depleted. If you really want something sweet, opt for fresh fruit such as berries, melon, or apple/pear slices.
  3. Watch the fats! Healthy fats (avocado, walnuts, olive oil) are great toppings in moderation, especially because they can help improve nutrient absorption, control appetite, and support heart health. But adding too much fat can definitely be a salad death trap and spike calorie levels. When adding fat, pick one healthy fat to focus on. You can always save the rest for another salad.
  4. Protein, or lack thereof. A salad without protein is not a complete meal. Protein is very important because helps curb hunger, supports muscle growth, keeps blood sugar levels in check, and can even help with fat loss. Make sure to add lean protein like grilled chicken, steamed or grilled seafood, turkey, cottage cheese, tofu or eggs/eggwhites.
  5. Avoid dressings high in sugar. Many bottled dressings claim to be healthy as they are lower in fat and calories. However, if you read the label, they tend to replace fat with added sugars. Avoid extra sugars and other unhealthy additives by making your own salad dressings — it’s as simple as a little olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Balsamic vinegar is great, too.  

Hopefully you will remember and implement these tips next time you are dining out or building your own salad at home. Your body will thank you! Enjoy!

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