A salad can be a girl's best friend or worst enemy. Did you know some salads are as high in calories and fat as a double Quarter Pounder with Cheese (740 calories, 42 grams of fat)? In fact, the popular Grilled Chicken Caesar salad at Olive Garden will run you a whopping 850 calories, 64g of fat and 1880mg of sodium! Yikes!
Generally speaking, salads can and should be a substantial part of our everyday diet. They provide a wonderful opportunity to get an abundance of healthy, whole foods full of vitamins and minerals.
Here are some tips to keep your salad friendly...
Start With Quality Greens- Lettuce is the backbone of most salads. Since greens are low in calories and are a good source of fiber, it's a great way to add volume to your meal without adding a lot of calories. There are different varieties of lettuce, such as iceburg, spinach, escarole, romaine, arugula or butter to name a few. Stick with the darker lettuces. They offer more vitamins than pale iceburg, for example. Spinach has iron, and all varieties are low in calories. One cup of shredded lettuce has only five to ten calories.
Add a Variety of Veggie Fillers- Almost any raw vegetable can be cut up and added to a salad. Carrots, celery, peas, onions, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, avocados, tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers are all great suggestions. We need five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day, so eating a salad is a sure fire way to help meet those needs. Brightly colored vegetables have bioflavanoids, and the dark green vegetables are lowest in calories.
Salads are also a perfect way to acquire a taste for vegetables you would not eat otherwise. I used not to like tomatoes. I began adding small bits of tomato in my salads, gradually increasing the amount over time. Now I don't even notice them.
Fruit Fillers- Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, apple slices and raisins are a great way to add flavor and sweetness to any salad while giving a boost of vitamins and antioxidants too. Plus, the juices coat the lettuce and can take the place of a high calorie dressing.
Add a Lean Protein- To really make a meal out of your salad you will want to add a source of lean healthy protein. It will give you a feeling
of satiety (fullness) as it takes longer to digest protein than carbs. Some great sources are hard boiled eggs, fish, grilled chicken breast, shrimp, tuna, lean cuts of beef or low-fat cheese such as goat, feta or mozzarella.
At home, be sure to always have protein options on hand. For example, if I have chicken for dinner, I grill an extra breast to have in my lunch salad the next day. Keep some hard boiled eggs in the fridge for a quick protein booster to add to any salad.
By all means, avoid fried meats like chicken strips or fried shrimp. this is the fastest way to destroy a perfectly good salad!
Go Light On the Dressing- Here is the culprit where many otherwise healthy salads head straight into the nutritional ditch! Like the Grilled Chicken Caesar salad example above, dressings are often heavy in fat and sodium causing your wonderful salad to double, if not triple, in calories. Always ask for the dressing on the side when dining out. Then you're in control and know exactly how much dressing is used.
When eating a fast food salad, try and use just half the packet of the given dressing. They are usually higher in calories and fat and you'll find half is plenty to coat the leaves and give enough flavor.
Ultimately, your best bet is to make your own dressing. Below is a super simple, delicious recipe that will go well with almost any salad.
Simple Salad Dressing
In a blender mix the following ingredients-
1 C Olive Oil
Ω C Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tbsp Organic Dijon Mustard
Grate raw Parmesan cheese (organic- as much as you want for flavor)
Best Salads on the go:
#1 Panera Bread's BBQ Chopped Chicken Salad-
Only 350 Calories with barbeque sauce that can easily
substitute for the additional 150 calorie dressing.
#2 McDonald's Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken-
320 Calories and with the dressing you keep it under 500.
Joni Colburn is a Certified N.E.S.T.A. (National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association) personal trainer, as well as a Certified Adventure Boot Camp Instructor. She is the owner of Adventure Bootcamp Hilton Head. For more information, log onto www.hiltonheadbootcamp.com.