The more salad you eat, the healthier you are… right? Not always. Salads can contain high sugar, sodium and fat content based on the types of ingredients and dressings added. Some salads can even be unhealthier than other menu items, even if you think you’re choosing ‘smart.’
For example, Panera’s Fuji Apple with Chicken Salad contains 560 calories, 34 grams of fat, and 21 grams of sugar and 670 mg of sodium. And this is considered a ‘healthier’ option than most chain restaurants. Yikes!
An article in the Washington Post discussed which salads to be weary of when eating out, and what ingredients to avoid that may be hindering your health and fitness goals. There are a few key offenders that can make salads transition from a healthy choice to cheat meal.
Dressings, even those labeled ‘lite’ or ‘low-fat,’ normally contain a high-sugar and sodium content. Caesar dressing, for example, is fatty and has more calories than the rest of your salad combined. Instead of getting thick, creamy, or heavy dressings, opt for olive oil, lime juice, or lemon juice for the same amount of flavor, at an extremely low number of calories. If you’re looking to add some more flavors to your salad, sprinkle on some garlic or onion spice, pepper, or fresh, tasty vegetables.
2. Pay attention to hunger
America is known for doubling, and even tripling, portion sizes. Though salads are healthy, too much of one thing is never good. Pay attention to your hunger levels to avoid overeating. In fact, you can even turn one huge salad into two meals. Once you notice yourself beginning to get full, have your server package up the rest of your salad to enjoy during lunch the next day, or dinner that same night.
3. Swap out ingredients
Chances are restaurants will have healthier ingredients, but don’t specify that on the menu. Don’t be shy to ask to swap out for low-fat cheeses, avocado, or dried fruit for fresh fruit. For example, ask your server if you can get low-fat feta instead of cheddar cheese, or grilled chicken instead of crispy chicken. Simple swaps can save you a ton of calories, fat, and sugar.
Even when you’re on the go, eating healthy should be your main priority. Make a salad at home the morning before work or a busy day. Instead of iceburg lettuce, try dark, leafy greens. Greens like spinach, kale, arugula, spring mix or romaine offer more nutrients than the no-nutrient light green lettuce that most restaurants offer. Eating a serving of dark, leafy greens provides you with vitamins such as: A, C, folate, and iron. Add some raw, unsalted nuts, a touch of olive oil, and some fresh vegetables to make for a filling, healthier salad. Knowing exactly what is in the food you put into your body will help you attain your health and fitness goals sooner than trial-and-error when eating out at restaurants.
Many don’t think to add fruit to salads, but this is a fantastic source of natural sugar, and can prevent sugar cravings during the day. Load up your salad with the freshest seasonal fruit for some extra flavor!
6. Fiber and lean protein
Flax and chia seeds are no-fuss, easy ways to add fiber and nutrients to your salad. This will keep you full longer, without the extra carbs and calories. Add a lean protein such as eggs, beans, chicken or turkey.
Most people who begin their health and fitness journeys don’t think salads will fill them up or believe that every salad is healthy. Knowing which ingredients you enjoy, and finding a way to incorporate that into your daily salad is important in sticking to your dieting plan. Be weary when you eat out, and ask the server if there are any other options when ordering.
What are your favorite salad hacks?