Many people believe by ordering a salad they are eating healthy, and often times they just may be. A large serving of greens and non-starchy vegetables are low in calories, high in fiber, and loaded with vitamin and minerals.
But as many ‘salads’ may start out healthy, they often wind up almost anything but. Just because something is called is salad doesn’t make it healthy. Potato salad, Caesar salad, taco salad, macaroni salad, bacon-ranch salad… the list goes on and on. Most of these salads have more calories, unhealthy fats, sodium, and sugar than may of their fast food counterparts.
When making or ordering a salad, avoid these different toppings which can easily turn a healthy bowl of greens into a calorie ridden disaster:
- Avoid Creamy dressings
- These are probably the worst dressings you can choose. For example, ranch dressing is a whole 140 calories per two tablespoons. Not only are these dressings loaded in unhealthy fats, but they also have high levels of sodium and very little nutritional value.
- TRY THIS: Stick to olive oil based vinagrettes or better yet just plain olive oil and vinegar. And If you just don’t want to give up your creamy dressings, try making your own with Greek yogurt and your choice of herbs and seasonings.
- Avoid Glazed or candied nuts
- Nuts are healthy fats and a good addition to a salad, that is if they aren’t kettle-cooked and glazed with sugar.
- TRY THIS: Stick to dry-roasted or raw nuts to save on calories and sugar. Also don’t overdo the nuts. An ounce of nuts still has +/- 200 calories, so an ounce or less is all that is needed.
- Avoid crunchy tortilla chips, shells, or croutons.
- These are essentially just buttered and fried breads which are loaded in excess unhealthy fats and calories. The quesadilla Explosion salad at Chili’s which contains tortilla chips contains about 1,360 calories with 88 grams of fat. You’ll want to stay far far away from these kinds of ‘salads.’
- TRY THIS: If looking for a little crunch, stick with an ounce of plain nuts as mentioned above!
- Avoid fried meats
- It’s important to ALWAYS add some sort of protein item to a salad. But steer away from anything that is fried or breaded to avoid adding empty calories, fats, and carbs.
- TRY THIS: Choose grilled or steamed protein items only. Good options could be chicken, shrimp, fish, eggs, or ground beef.
- Avoid EXCESS cheese
- First let me say, cheese isn’t all bad. Cheese can have healthy fats and protein but when some people add cheese to a salad, they really pile it on—and that’s why it’s on the list. Also stick to a grass-fed, natural cheese. Not the fake Kraft cheese or Velveta.
- TRY THIS: Measure out one ounce of cheese or less. Healthy options are cheeses such as feta, goat cheese, cottage cheese, parmesan, and fresh mozzarella.
- Avoid Dried fruit
- Craisins, raisins, or any other dried fruit are loaded in sugar due to their high concentration. ¼ up of raisins is 130 calories, with 29 grams coming solely from sugar.
- TRY THIS: If adding fruit, choose fresh fruit. Better options would be any variety of berries as they are lower is sugar than many other fruits.
Rachel Scheer is a Certified Nutritionist who received her degree from Baylor University in Nutrition Science and Dietetics. Rachel has her own private nutrition and counseling practice located in McKinney, Texas. Rachel has helped clients with a wide range of nutritional needs enhance their athletic performance, improve their physical and mental health, and make positive lifelong eating and exercise behavior changes.