Think you’re home-free because you’re having a salad? Mwahahaha!
Sure, Chuck-a-rama’s trouble, but sticking to the salad bar is different, right? Here we can pile our plates, welcome peer pressure and return for seconds—guilt-free.
Well, not quite.
It’s smart to gorge on antioxidant-rich veggies, reduce your risk of cancer, and whittle away your waistline with a plate full of produce. WebMD writer Elaine Magee says eating frequent healthy salads will add tons of nutrients to your diet.
But don’t get all warm-fuzzy just yet. If you think that because you’re at the salad bar, you’re home-free, think again! In fact, it’s here that some of the worst nutrition no-no’s are committed.
If your goal is low-fat, then take note of these tips before you “just have a salad,” or you could walk away hundreds of calories richer than you intended.
Five things not to do with your salad:
- Make it iceberg. Typically, the darker the leaf, the more nutrient-rich the lettuce. Romaine, leaf lettuce and spinach are all good bets (and Better Homes & Gardens doesn’t even include iceberg in their lettuce lineup—what does that tell you?). Unfortunately, iceberg is all that’s offered at many restaurants (*cough* Olive Garden *cough*), so if you’re stuck with a bed of crisphead, try to add extra veggie toppings.
- Keep it green. For a nutrient-packed salad, aim for a rainbow—pile on the red, orange and yellow, as well as the green. And I don’t mean red as in bacon bits, orange as in cheddar cheese and yellow as in buttermilk ranch. We’re talking produce. Magee suggests adding bell peppers, carrots, apples, strawberries or nectarines for an extra-healthy boost.
- Misplace it under a mountain of creamy dressing. Well, you could keep telling yourself that gooey Caesar salad is low-fat. Or you could be honest, recall your New Year’s Resolution to eat healthier, and limit your ranch or blue cheese to a quarter-sized amount. Better yet, drizzle (notice I didn’t say “pour”) some homemade, non-cream-based dressing on your salad. John Romaniello has a five-second recipe for a healthy vinaigrette here.
- Add fried or fatty toppings. One of the fastest ways to un-salad your salad is to add fried, breaded chicken strips. Fattening runners up: croutons, crispy noodles and fried onions. Add charbroiled steak, cheese and sour cream and you’ve officially left saladville. When you think ‘salad toppings,’ try to think fruits and veggies, legumes, and lean meat like grilled, skinless chicken, OK?
- Sit within view of more of it. You’re at Olive Garden, the salad keeps coming, it’s free, and you’re still hoping to win the single-olive-in-the-bowl lottery. But spooning up endless amounts of salad can quickly take you beyond your intended calories—especially if you still plan to eat your entrée. Just like it’s unwise to sit within view of the food at a chow hall, it’s easier to control your salad portion if you’re not gazing at the salad bar or a bottomless bowl at the table.
Feeling like I just left you with a two-ounce serving at an all-you-can-eat salad buffet? Not to worry: you can weigh down your plate with flavorful vegetables like avocados and broccoli (for a brain boost), bell peppers (antioxidant- and fiber-rich), and spinach, reportedly one of the healthiest vegetables in the world.
If you still think you’re “just having a salad” when your lettuce is buckling under mounds of gorgonzola and a ladleful of creamy blue cheese, that’s fine.
But at 1,570 calories, you definitely would’ve been better off with the cheeseburger.
Hey, salad saints! I gave you my favorite healthy toppings; so what do you load up your salads with?