Ah yes, the holy grail of dieters everywhere: the salad. Whether you love or dread the idea of it, there’s one thing I can tell you for sure; just because something is called a salad, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. In fact, most salads are the worst choice you can make. Potato Salad, Egg Salad, Caesar Salad, Taco Salad, Macaroni Salad, Buffalo Chicken Salad, Greek Salad, Cobb Salad…the list goes on and on; here’s some straight talk. Most of these “salads” have more calories, fat, sodium, and sugar than a Double Whopper with Cheese, French Fries and a Small Soda. Ugh.
Now, I’m not advocating that you speed over to the drive-through and order yourself a Happy Meal. Nope, that’s not at all my point. What I am saying is that you might need to adjust your thinking about salads. I went to check on the actual meaning of the word salad only to find that it is loosely defined. My favorite description is this one: a usually incongruous mixture/hodgepodge. So, when you’re choosing a salad, the story in your head is one of a healthy and light combination of wholesome foods that will nourish your body; but often, the real story is that you’re eating a hodgepodge of ingredients that are often less than good for you and laden with more calories than the junk you think you’re avoiding.
Okay, so I’m not about to leave you high and dry! Salads can be beyond fabulous. I totally want you to check out my list of the best and the worst salads and make the choice based on the facts, not how you feel about the word.
Best Salad Toppings and Ingredients:
Veggies: Think outside the proverbial salad box. While lettuce and cucumber, carrots and celery are way cool, add other veggies like beets, kale, collard greens, jicama, artichoke hearts, asparagus, radishes, peas, avocado, bok choy, and green beans for an added nutrient kick.
Fruit: Fruit is often a forgotten addition to a “green salad.” Try adding blueberries, peaches, strawberries, pears, grapes, apples, or citrus for a powerful antioxidant boost.
Nuts: Love those nuts, but do be mindful; nuts are really high in calories so go light. Add pecans, walnuts, pistachios, almonds, brazil or macadamia nuts for a little extra heart healthy fat.
Seeds: Seeds are a quick and easy way to add nutrients. Toasted sesame seeds, poppy, flax, hemp and chia are perfect ingredients for adding both nutrients and flavor.
Beans: Black, white or red, beans can provide a touch of extra protein and fiber.
Dried Fruit: While most dried fruit is coated with sugar and other junk, Peeled Snacks make for a perfectly easy salad topping that is both unique and delicious
Greek Yogurt: Try plain Greek Yogurt to replace your traditional mayo. Looking for a vegan mayo alternative without all the chemical junk? Check out Spectrum Organics Canola Oil Vegan Mayonnaise.
Dressing: I’m a fan of extra virgin olive oil whisked with lemon and/or a little balsamic vinegar. For the bottled stuff, Annie’s Organics has several options that are worth trying.
Worst Salad Toppings and Ingredients:
Mayo: Stay away from traditional mayo. The “Real Mayonnaise” is full of calories, sugar, salt, inflammatory fats, and EDTA
Croutons: Just a couple of tablespoons will cost you a good run on the treadmill. Croutons are generally filled with sugar, salt and other questionable ingredients
Bacon Bits: Bacon bits are often not even really bacon. They are a bacon-like-product filled with artificial junk, chemicals and of course sugar.
Cheese: While certain cheeses in small amounts can be really good for you, all that artificial cheese-like-product junk should be totally avoided.
Sugar Covered Dried Fruit: While dried fruit that is just that (dried fruit) can be fabulous, skip the ones that are covered with sweetener.
Candied Nuts: Again, while raw nuts and seeds are a great way to add those healthy fats, the ones covered in candy don’t cut it! Stay far away from anything candied…
Salad Dressing: If it’s a full calorie and fat version of the dressing, it can pack on hundreds of added calories. If it’s a low calorie, low carb, low fat alternative, it’s generally filled with artificial junk, sugar, fake sugar, and chemicals. Always be savvy and read the list of ingredients found on the label.
Eat real food, feel real good! Bottom line, eat the good stuff that comes from the earth. Skip the junk that is created in test tubes. Change Your Meals, Change Your Life!