How A Salad Can Ruin Your Diet?
N.B. This blog is also available in Finnish and you’ll find it here
Having a salad at any time of the day sounds healthy and nutritious, right? A big pile of leafy greens, some colorful crunchy veggies, healthy fats from nuts or seeds with a good qualified protein source is always a perfect choice. But let’s be honest! When you hit to the salad bar or read the salad menu when you’re hungry, what do you see first? I bet, that those green salad leaves don’t call your name 😉 .
The truth is, that salad can be your best friend or worst enemy, depending on how you toss it. Read below, how you can make wise and healthy choices, see your figure come smaller and still enjoy tasty salads.
Skip the Ranch dressing. Let’s start from the basics. You probably know, that store bought salad dressings are loaded with fat, but you may have forgot the fact that they also are often loaded with sugar, artificial sweeteners, high levels of sodium and nasty preservatives, and very little nutritional value. The worst ones are labeled with word ‘creamy’, and for example, two tablespoons of Ranch dressing (blue cheese, parmesan, caesar and chipotle dressings all go under this category) has around 140 calories, and about 130 of those calories are coming from fat. It doesn’t sound that tempting anymore…
If you want to add something on top of your salad, I recommend you to mix your dressings by yourself, so you know exactly what they contain. Try also to squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice on top of your salad and sprinkle it with a pinch of salt. And you can’t go wrong with the classic mixture of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil!
Don’t miss protein. Good qualified protein helps you to feel satisfied for a lot longer, and it’s the magic thing, which turns your plate from a side salad to a main meal. Say no to all deep fried things and lean towards grilled chicken or shrimps, salmon and tuna. All the legumes like chickpeas and beans or tofu are also excellent options.
Don’t go nuts. We all know, that nuts are loaded with healthy fats and necessary protein (same goes with seeds), they keep you feeling full longer, and are a tasty addition to any salad. But… Nuts are loaded with energy, and before you even realize it, you have gobbled up calories worth of a whole meal.
Stick to dry-roasted nuts to save on calories. Avoid all fried and salted, and sugar glazed versions, because those are more candies than healthy energy sources. My favorites are natural pistachios and cashews, but pecans and walnuts are real treats too. I’m always chopping the nuts up, so I can use only a few of them, but still get the feeling that I have something crunchy and nutty on my salad!
Use fresh fruits. Dried cranberries, raisins or goji berries on your salad sounds delicious, and can be found in most cases on your plate while eating out. Though they are fat-free and relatively low in calories, they’re still full of sugar, which means a lot of energy. The right amount to use them as an extra energy boost in your salads would be less than 10 pieces of them, but who uses them as few?
As an option, I highly recommend you to replace dried fruits with fresh ones. Fresh fruits offer more volume and contain more water than dried fruits, which will help you to feel full sooner and longer with that sweet taste. Try for example strawberries, watermelon, mango and green apples, and you won’t be disappointed!
Don’t overload with cheese. First, cheese offers you protein and calcium, and studies have shown that low-fat dairy products (3-4 daily servings) can boost your body’s fat-burning potential and help you to lose weight. The problem is, that people normally really pile cheese on their salads, and that’s where the whole thing changes from healthy to unhealthy.
Try to avoid high salty cheeses, like blue cheese, and choose low fat options if possible. Salt-reduced feta is a great choice for salads because it is lower in fat and calories than most cheeses. Another good ones are part-skim mozzarella sticks (it’s super easy to control serving size!), which you can just cut up into pieces and sprinkle on top of the salad.
Choose bread roll instead of croutons. If you want to include some bread into your salad portion, please do so, but not in a form of croutons. Croutons are full of refined carbs and can also contain high sodium levels. Depending on a brand, they offer you about 30 empty calories for just six pieces of them, and who will settle for just a few croutons?
Instead of croutons, choose 100 % whole wheat bread.
Skip tortilla chips. It may not look harmful to order Mexican style salad with tortilla chips, but don’t let the word ‘salad’ fool you. Those chips are full of empty calories and fat, and usually served with a lot of cheese and creamy dressings, or even worse, served in a tortilla bowl. The calories in these kind of salads are usually more than a regular Pasta Bolognese would offer to you, and they lack of nutrients.
Choose the right greens. The last, but not least, choosing the base for your salad is just as important as selecting the right toppings. For example, Iceberg lettuce sounds familiar, crunchy and you’ll get it from every store, but it contains practically no nutrients and minimal fiber. For a nutritious and energizing salad, use the darkest, leafiest greens (like spinach, kale and arugula) you can find and try to get as many colors in your bowl as possible (eat the rainbow, you know 😉 ).
By following these advices, you can enjoy delicious salads and nourish your body at the same time. Your salads will taste just as delicious as what you are used to have in the past, and you certainly will not be hungry!