Salad: A Double-Edged Sword

May 1, 2013

This post was written by Rosemary Squires 

When you go out to eat you generally think ordering a salad is a safe choice, right? Well sometimes salad is not the healthiest option on the menu. Lots of calories, sodium, and unhealthy fats may be lurking under those seemingly healthy greens. And if you’re at one of those make-your-own salad bars, there are so many toppings to choose from, which makes it hard to decide what are the healthiest selections and which you should steer clear of. To help you out, here’s a quick guide to making the most Nutritioulicious salad!

Lettuce: When choosing your greens for the base of your salad its best to go with spinach, romaine, and mixed baby greens which are packed with antioxidants and fiber. Remember: the darker the leaf, the more nutrients it has!

Protein: Certain protein choices on the salad bar can add more calories and fat than you think. Opt for protein- and fiber-packed beans, grilled chicken, baked tofu, hard-boiled egg whites, or roasted turkey. And if you see grilled or baked salmon, definitely make that a topper!

Vegetables: Vegetables add a ton of nutrients, flavor, texture, and beautiful color to your salad! You can’t go too wrong when choosing your vegetable toppings, just be sure to stick to fresh veggies rather than roasted, sautéed, and canned ones.

Fruit: Like vegetables, fruit adds vitamins and minerals to your salad along with a sweet flavor. But be careful because some fruits, such as mandarin oranges, may be preserved with added sugars, and calories from dried fruit add up fast, so watch the portions.

Cheese: If you like to add cheese to your salads, it’s best to choose the flavorful cheeses like feta and cheddar and add only a small amounts.

Crunchy Toppings: Croutons, crispy noodles, and sesame sticks all add a great crunch to salads, but along with them comes added calories, fat, and sodium. Get that crunchy texture with a small portion of nuts like almonds or walnuts, jicama, or apple slices.

Dressing: Salad dressing is a big contributor to hidden calories so one of the best things to do would be to add a little bit of oil and vinegar for flavor and make sure to mix dressing well so it covers the whole salad. If you get dressing on the side, beware that you may end up using more than the restaurant would have.

5 Worst Salad Toppings:

  1. Bacon
  2. ‘Crispy’ Chicken (just a fancy name for fried chicken)
  3. Cheese (very fattening and high in calories, eat in moderation!)
  4. Ranch Dressing (a very fatty dressing. Be careful of how much you add!)
  5. Buffalo Sauce (contains sugar, fat, and blue cheese)

Making salad at home? Try one of these Nutritioulicious recipes:

Arugula Salad with Cider Honey Vinaigrette

Spinach Salad with Jicama, Black Beans, and Lime Vinaigrette

Poached Salmon with Peach Salad

What are your favorite salad toppings?

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