How Healthy Is Your Salad?

By: Amanda Belo

So, you’ve been eating salads all summer in the spirit of good health, but were your food choices actually backfiring?  Whether you’re making your own salad or choosing one from a menu, learn how to stay on the right track with these healthy salad tips and learn how to better modify your choices:

healthy salad

What NOT To Eat:

  • Iceberg Lettuce2: Well you can eat it, but you’re basically just getting water out of it. This veggie is 96% water1 and is not as nutrient-rich as its other green leafy counterparts, such as spinach, kale or red and green leaf romaine lettuce.
  • Avoid fatty or fried proteins: It can be tempting to decide you can sneak by with those bleu cheese beef tips or fried chicken but be careful with that trap.  Just because there’s a bed of greens on your plate, it doesn’t mean the unhealthy fat and sodium from those deep fried chicken strips are canceled out somehow.2
  • Avoid toppings high in fat:  These include ingredients such as cheese, bacon bits, crunchy noodles, and croutons.  These ingredients add flavor, yes, but can also make that salad work against you if you overdo it.  Everything in moderation, but be careful how you’re measuring the pros and cons of these toppings for a healthy meal.2
  • Avoid dressings that are high in fat and calories:.2  We know your favorite dressing is hard to pass up, especially when you’ve been hooked on ranch or bleu cheese dressings for years!  These dressings load in extra calories, fat, sugar, and sodium that can derail a healthy streak. Avoid creamy and “low-fat” ones, too, as they tend to be high in sugar content, but there are plenty of others to try!

What TO Eat:

  • Choose greens high in nutritional value:  A couple of good options are spinach (Vitamins A and C, folate4), red and green leaf romaine lettuce (Vitamin A, folate4), or kale (Vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, folate, and potassium4) as your base. If you’re opting for a salad, it’s always good to make sure you’re getting nutrients instead of simply water-loaded iceberg lettuce!
  • Choose lean proteins: Back to the “it doesn’t cancel out” thing we mentioned earlier, your protein can work as hard against you as it does for you.  Try opting for lean proteins such as freshly grilled chicken, turkey breast or grilled shrimp!2
  • Substitute with fresh toppings:  These may include: fresh fruit; unsalted, raw nuts and seeds; meatless proteins, like beans, chickpeas or tempeh; or, non-dairy cheese.3
  • Make your own dressings: Making your own dressing at home can save you calories, fat, and preservatives that are better left out of everyone’s diets!  Try searching for dressings made with extra virgin olive or avocado oil, or try blending in hummus, yogurt or avocado for creaminess!3