Salads by themselves full of fiber and antioxidants. However, adding too much of the wrong ingredients can quickly turn a healthy summer meal into a Big Mac. Here are some tips to dress your salad without the extra saturated fats and calories….
Start with a base of dark leafy greens.
Dark leafy greens like spinach, arugula, romaine and kale contain more antioxidants than pale iceberg lettuce. They’re also good sources of vitamins A, C, and K and folate and minerals such as iron and calcium.
Add a rainbow of color.
Adding a variety colorful fruits and vegetables to your salad will enhance your salad with vitamins and antioxidants. The flavor and sweetness fruits add can also help you cut back on, or eliminate, high-calorie salad dressings.
Keep the protein lean.
Turning your salad into a meal will require some lean protein and some heart-healthy fats. Try sliced hard-boiled egg whites, tuna, skinless chicken or turkey breast, shrimp, salmon cottage cheese or beans. When selecting beef, choose lean cuts like sirloin, top round roast and bottom round roast. Measure your protein sources (3-4 oz. serving), since meats have more calories than fruit or vegetables. Cheese adds a little protein, but it also adds a lot of saturated fat. Two ounces of cubed cheddar cheese adds an additional 200 calories and 12 grams saturated fat! When making your own salad, choose a reduced fat cheese containing 3 grams of fat or less per serving.
Choose plant-based unsaturated fats.
Fat is an essential nutrient, so be sure to include some unsaturated, plant based fats with your salad like avocado, nuts, seeds or vinaigrette dressing. However, you’ll need to be aware of how much fat you add to your salad. Two tablespoons of nuts, seeds or salad dressing, or ¼ avocado can provide all of the fat you need for a meal. Try some fresh lemon and lime juice on your salad, as a healthy alternative to salad dressing.
Add a healthy crunch.
Many salad lovers like to add an additional “crunch” to their meal. Bacon bits and croutons add flavor with little nutritional value and a lot of calories in generous portions. If added crunch is a must, consider chopped nuts or seeds (see portions above). When ordering a salad at a restaurant, look for the phrases crispy, crunchy or battered in the meat description. These phrases imply that the meat was fried, adding lots of additional, unnecessary calories to your salad.