Hey, how about a delicious, colorful, satisfying salad on a hot summer day? For sure, it’s a dish overflowing with fruit and vegetable goodness. Sounds healthy, right? But, not so fast! There are many ways to ruin a salad.
A first-rate salad can devolve quickly into an unhealthy dish. Before you know it, your good-for-you meal can quickly turn into a high-calorie meal with little nutritional value. By making the right choices, you can avoid ruining your salad.
Quick and dirty ways to ruin a salad:
Iceberg lettuce. Instead of using iceberg lettuce, make that salad burst with nutrients like folate, vitamin A, C, K and antioxidants by substituting darker greens, such as curly endive, escarole, romaine, spinach, kale, arugula, and leaf lettuces.
Cheese. Cheese is an excellent source of calcium and protein, but it can be high in calories, saturated fat and sodium. Watch portion size and select flavorful reduced-fat cheeses, such as feta, mozzarella or sharp.
Dried fruit. It’s easy to overdo on this concentrated calorie source that often contains added sugar. Think fresh berries, apple slices, oranges, and pears, which all pair deliciously with leafy greens.
Crunchy croutons and deep fried food items (crispy onions, fried wonton strips, taco shells). Try a handful of nutrient dense seeds and nuts instead, such as sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, pecans or walnuts. They add pizzazz to a salad with texture and crunch.
Fried and processed meats. Healthy protein added to a salad makes a balanced meal. Fried meats are high in calories, saturated fat and sodium. Select grilled or baked turkey, chicken or fish. Hard-boiled egg slices are another healthy option. Plant-based protein ideas include tasty satisfying garbanzo beans (chickpeas), black beans and edamame.
High-calorie toppings and dressings. Make the best choice. Choose vinaigrette or a simple olive oil and balsamic vinegar. These are full of healthy fat, not sugar, sodium and calories. Bypass creamy and sweet dressings (French, Thousand Island, blue cheese, etc.). Squeeze lemon or lime juice on top, or choose salsa. And, don’t forget to request dressing on the side when dining out.
A salad on top of your salad. Pasta, potato or other creamy salads nestled on top of that lean nutritious salad you created defeats your healthy salad goal. Instead, think cooked grains that add fiber and B vitamins plus texture. Quinoa, brown rice, barley and farro are several grains to try in your next salad.
Portion size. A hefty salad is okay as long as it’s chock full of nutrient dense foods, not fatty calories.
Not enough vegetables! Raw, cooked, diced and sliced veggies are full of flavor and nutrition, just what a body needs! Some vegetables to add to your next salad:
Corn, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, mushrooms, olives, cauliflower, beets, red onions and avocados. Remember to look for pre-chopped veggies in the produce section of your local supermarket, if you don’t have time to prep!
Steps to building a healthy salad:
- Start with nutrient-rich leafy greens.
- For variety, add grains and a handful of nuts and seeds.
- Add some lean protein.
- Pile on the veggies and add some fruit, too.
- Top off with a light vinaigrette or a sprinkling of simple olive oil and balsamic vinegar and/or herbs and spices for added flavor.
Fruits and vegetables promote good health. Eating vegetables and fruits of many different colors, particularly dark green vegetables, gives a body a wide range of nutrients, like fiber, folate, potassium and vitamins A and C. And, they are excellent sources of essential vitamins and minerals. Eating generous amounts are likely to reduce risk of chronic diseases, including stroke, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and possibly heart disease and high blood pressure. Since they are lower in calories and higher in fiber, it can be easier to control your weight.
What is simpler than whole fruits and vegetables? Just rinse and eat to power-pack your day the fruit and vegetable way!