- Posted in Health Benefits
Most of us automatically equate the word “salad” with “healthy”. Although a bowl of leafy greens, a variety of veggies and fruits, and a sprinkle of nuts can be a nutritional powerhouse, certain habits can turn a salad from a healthy meal into a diet disaster.
Read on to learn 6 common choices that decrease the nutritional value of your salad.
1. Topping It With a Pile of Croutons
Cripsy, crunchy croutons are a popular salad addition. Although they add texture and flavour, they also add unnecessary calories that lack any nutritional benefit. Typically, croutons are fried to create their flavour, leading to an excess of fat.
A better alternative? Sesame, pumpkin. or sunflower seeds. These tiny nutritional powerhouses add crunch and texture while also providing fiber, nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. Chopped pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, or slivered almonds also make delicious, healthy salad toppers.
2. No-Fat or Low-Fat Dressings
It may come as a surprise to you, but a full-fat dressing can actually be a healthy addition to a salad. When fat is removed from salad dressings, it is usually replaced with sugar. Also, fat can actually assist the body in absorbing fat-soluble nutrients, specifically Vitamins A, E, K, and D, from the vegetables in the salad.
A healthier choice? An extra-virgin olive oil dressing or homemade vinaigrette. Also, aim to keep salad dressing portions to around one or two tablespoons.
3. Only Using Iceberg Lettuce
When it comes to salad, the type of greens you choose can make a huge difference in terms of nutrition. Pale lettuce, also known as iceberg lettuce, is composed of 95 percent water and little else. This means you are missing out on a host of nutrients and vitamins that can be found in other greens.
A healthier option? Dark, leafy greens such as spinach, Romaine, kale, mustard greens, or Swiss chard. These greens are packed with fiber, antioxidants, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. It is fine to mix in some iceberg lettuce as long as you ensure that the majority of your salad is comprised of healthier greens.
4. Not Including a Variety of Ingredients
If you tend to make a salad using iceberg lettuce, croutons, and cheese, you’re missing the nutritional potential that a true salad has to offer.
A healthier alternative? Variety! Salads can be customized in so many ways. Color is an especially important factor to keep in mind. More color equals more nutrients. Try to include every color of the rainbow in your salad: red tomatoes, mandarin orange slices, yellow pepper, dark leafy greens, blueberries, purple onion or cabbage, and white mushrooms. A variety of colors will also make your salad more visually appealing and help you look forward to eating it.
5. Fried Shrimp or Chicken
About the only things that fried shrimp and chicken bring to the table are excess sodium and calories. Other sodium and calorie-packed foods include fried seafood, fried onions, and other fried items. These foods can quickly take your salad from perfectly nutritious to a nutritional nightmare.
A healthier choice? Grilled protein. Options like wild-caught tuna, grilled beef, grilled chicken, hard-boiled eggs, or high-quality salmon add a healthy dose of protein.
Most people hear the term “dried cranberries” and assume they are good for you since they are a fruit. Unfortunately, these sweet treats are packed with more sugar than you’d expect! Although they are fat-free and fairly low in calories, they contain 29 grams of sugar in just 1/4 cup!
Healthier Alternative? Use organic, seasonal fruit such as strawberries or blueberries to sweeten your salad. These delicious fruits will provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients without an excess of sugar.