Salads, such a great way to get all your dietary needs and feel good about what you’re eating, so how should we incorporate them into our diet? We recently decided we were going to do a build your own salad bar party for our next group get-together, and I began to think about what would be some good ingredients for this salad bar? I want to make sure we’re not including high fat foods or unnecessary calories, so here are some tips and my thoughts on those tips (in italics).
The foundation of most salads, lettuce adds substance, crunch, water, and fiber for very few calories—only about 10 per cup. But if you want all that and vitamins, too, toss out the iceberg and toss in the romaine, mixed baby greens and spinach. While iceberg lettuce is lower in nutrients (and still makes a decent choice if it's the only thing available), these other greens are rich in vitamins A, C and K, manganese, and folate.
Love all of these, make sure to mix it up A LOT. I am a huge fan of iceberg and spinach, but get bored of both easily.
Adding protein, such as lean meat, tofu, eggs or beans, will help bulk up your salad and keep you full longer. Unfortunately, many protein toppings are deep-fried, breaded and greasy, which adds unnecessary calories plus cholesterol, sodium and fat to your salad. Skimp on fattier toppings such as bacon and fried (breaded) chicken strips, and go for lean proteins instead. Grilled chicken, canned beans of all kinds, chickpeas, tofu, hardboiled eggs (especially whites), or water-packed tuna are leaner choices. Nuts and seeds are popular in salads, too, and while they’re a healthy source of good fats and some protein, they’re not exactly low-cal. If you choose to add them, watch your portions (1/2 ounce contains more than 80 calories).
Hardboiled egg is the best, I also can not stand chickpeas and garbanzo beans, so they will not be added into any salad I am making. Also, I’m a huge fan of baby shrimp, go for that one of these days.
this is last night's chicken salad - shredded iceberg lettuce, diced red onion, chopped mozzarella cheese stick, diced mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, hard boiled egg, and grilled chicken strips with red pepper flakes.Cheese
Restaurants know that people love cheese, so they tend to pile on multiple servings of it on their salads. It might be tasty, but it sends the calorie counts sky high! While cheese is a nutritious food that adds flavor, calcium, and protein to a salad, enjoy it in moderation due to its high fat content. Just a half-cup of cheddar cheese (the amount on many large restaurant salads) contains 18 grams of fat and 225 calories. To keep calories in check, use a single serving of cheese (approximately 2 tablespoons). Choose low-fat varieties as much as possible to save on saturated fat and calories.
Don’t add cheese if you’re going to add regular and not light dressing, it’s just not needed most of the time. But one good tip I do have is use low-fat cheese sticks and chop them up for your cheese, instead of shredded Cheddar.
Pile on the Veggies
Vegetables like bell peppers, grated carrots, sugar snap peas, and tomatoes provide flavor, fiber, and vitamins for few calories. Grated carrots, for example, have only 45 calories in a whole cup, and there are only about 20 calories in an entire red bell pepper. When building your best salad, use as many veggies as possible for extra filling power—and a nice crunch! Practice moderation when it comes to starchy vegetable toppings like corn and potatoes, which are higher in calories. And remember to go for a variety of colors to ensure you're getting several different nutrients and antioxidants in your salad bowl.
Pile them all on! Cucumbers, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, and so much more!
Don't Forget the Fruit
Don't leave fruit on the sidelines! Fresh, canned and dried fruits add a sweetness that can help temper the slightly bitter taste of greens and veggies. They also provide color and texture (not to mention nutrition) to your salad bowl. Chopped apples, pears, grapes, or mandarin oranges (canned in juice—not syrup—and drained) are excellent salad toppers. Chewy dried fruits (cranberries, raisins) work well, too, but they are also high in calories (so only use a sprinkle!). Avocados (and the guacamole made from them) are creamy and nutritious thanks to their heart-healthy fats, but they're also a concentrated sources of calories. Keep your use of avocado to a minimum if you're watching your weight.
So, gym buddy has been doing this. I haven’t ever tried much dried fruit on my salad, so I will have to do this soon. But, I have used the most delicious avocado, and it’s so worth the calories!
Sesame sticks, crispy noodles and croutons are salty and crunchy but conceal lot of hidden fat. Better options include water chestnuts, apple slivers, a small serving of nuts, crumbled whole-grain crackers, and homemade croutons. To make your own low-fat croutons, just slice a large clove of garlic and rub it over both sides of a piece of whole-grain bread. Cut the bread into cubes and then brown it in the toaster or conventional oven.
Okay, I have to admit, I love croutons, so I use them in moderation. I try to not add them very often on my salads, so that when I do I feel like I’m getting a treat.
A very healthy salad could go very wrong with one too many shakes of oil or dressing. The main issue with dressing is its fat and sodium content—and the fact that people have trouble controlling their portions. Two tablespoons is an appropriate serving of dressing, but most restaurants serve much more than that, whether mixed in to your salad or served on the side. Those calories add up fast. When dining out, always ask for dressing on the side and dip your fork into the dressing before picking up your bite of salad. Caesar, ranch and other cream-based dressings (when not specified as low-fat) are calorie bombs worth avoiding. Look for dressings specified as "low-fat" that contain no more than 60 calories per serving. You can also add flavor for minimal calories by using salsa, vinegar or lemon juice.
I love ranch, and hate low-fat ranch, so I will probably never give in to this rule. I do dip my fork or measure out when I can to maintain the lowest calories possible, but I can’t always go low-fat when it comes to dressings. I have a friend who makes her own ranch dressing from a mix, and HELLO, that is filled with some serious calories! It’s good, but I really watch out on that one. At home I try to have a lot of variety of dressings. My other two favs include 1000 island and Kraft Catalina dressing. I also like Kraft’s low-fat Italian vinaigrette (I sometimes cook this on my chicken). I just also tried this wonderful Light, Parmesan peppercorn Ranch from Wishbone. It was very tasty! Give it a try, you won't regret it.