Are you missing out on the good intentions of salad?

Posted by: Tiffany Ritter
Date: August 31, 2016

Here’s a common scenario: You’re out to lunch with your co-workers and several of them order a salad. Everyone congratulates them on their healthy lunch. However, when the server brings the order, you can barely see anything green; the salads are sprinkled with cheese, sparkling with candied nuts, and dripping in ranch dressing.

The truth is, even a salad can become a calorie-heavy indulgence. To keep a salad healthy, some thought should play into your meal preparation or restaurant order. The following tips may make it easier to figure out in the event you want a salad to stay true to its reputation.

How to build a healthy salad

FOUNDATION: Don’t be afraid of the dark

If you’re starting a salad with greens, choose those that are leafy and dark like spinach, kale, or collard greens. These are the most nourishing according to the United States Department of Agriculture. If your comfort zone is iceberg lettuce, it’s OK to use it, but try to mix in at least some of its darker, leafier cousins.

BONUS TIP: Using grains instead of greens as your salad base can be healthy as long as you are aware they are higher in calories than greens or vegetables. Three quarters of a cup of quinoa adds more than 200 calories, for example. Get involved in making your own salads so you can “right size” your choices.

TOPPINGS: Stay on top of your calorie count

You can’t go wrong with fresh vegetables, especially various colored ones. Color ensures a variety of nutrients and phytochemicals, which promote good health and lower risk of disease. For protein, nuts or skinless chicken or turkey, or lean sirloin steak are healthy choices. If you include fish, opt for wild caught rather than farm-raised. Cheese is a favorite topping, but ½ cup of shredded cheddar contains about 228 calories, so watch portions.

BONUS TIP: People like the crunch of croutons, but they can ruin a healthy salad if they have hidden ingredients like partially hydrogenated oil, which is a trans-fat. Other crunchy alternatives carry cautions as well: Asian fried noodles are high in calories and bacon is high in fat and salt. Instead, try nuts in small portions (14 raw almonds contain about 100 calories) or raw, hulled sunflower seeds (only 47 calories in a tablespoon).

DRESSINGS: Healthy addition or icing on a cake?

Here is where many salads fail to deliver on healthy. Portion size is important in dressings to keep calories down, and so is quality. Just because a dressing is called “low calorie,” doesn’t mean it’s a healthy choice. Innocent sounding raspberry vinaigrette from a bottle can be loaded with sugar, preservatives, and colored dyes. Always check the ingredients on the bottle.

BONUS TIP: The best way to feel good about your salad dressing is to make it yourself. Try combining olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette, onion powder, garlic powder, mustard, fresh garlic, and fresh herbs in a bottle and shake it.

For more information on how to improve your diet, call 866-733-6158 or visit www.populytics.com.

The information presented is for your general knowledge and does not replace the advice of your health care provider. All medical inquiries regarding your health should be presented to your health care provider.