Many people turn to salads when they decide they need to start eating healthier. Absolutely great choice and, at surface level, a logical one – vegetables are good for you after all. Unfortunately, the restaurant world has created some pretty ridiculous salad standards and expectations have gotten a little out of hand. Today, I want to go over some common ingredients found in salads that can make the calorie count shoot through the roof and offer a few alternatives. Additionally, I’ll cover a few items that hide under the radar at times.
To me, this one has always been fairly obvious. Anything dunked in a hot vat of oil to fry cannot be considered healthy after all. However, what I’ve found is that quite a few people are of the mindset that because it’s on a salad, the healthy components and the fried components balance each other out. This is definitely not the case. Opt for baked or grilled cuts of lean meats if and when possible.
A sprinkle here or there for flavor is great. Cheese is one of life’s little pleasures after all. It is portion control that is critical here. I’ve definitely witnessed someone putting at least a cup of cheese on a measly portion of iceberg lettuce thinking they were being healthy in the past. Don’t be that guy! Parmesan and feta are my go-to cheese options because they pack a punch of flavor without being too caloric.
This one is a no brainer. Creamy dressings tend to be made with heavy cream and/or mayonnaise, both of which are almost pure fat. A few tablespoons can quickly add upwards of 200 calories to your meal. Vinaigrettes are really the way to go here, just don’t be too heavy handed with the oil.
Nuts are high calorie snacks on their own, granted, they’re filled with healthy fats. Portion control is the real killer here. Unfortunately it doesn’t stop there. To kick the flavor up a notch, many people candy their nuts, coating them in a sweet, sugary glaze and adding a ton of calories to an already calorie-laden item. Since they’re filled with healthy fats, I actually recommend going with raw nuts and making sure the portion is right instead of replacing them entirely.
Craisins come to mind here. While they’re delicious, they are very high in sugar. You see, fruit loses water (and volume) as it dries, concentrating the sugars within. An equivalent amount of fresh fruit would be a much healthier option. Sun-dried tomatoes fall into this boat too.
Typically, crispy means fried. Everything from chow mein noodles to crispy tortilla strips. Fortunately, that same crunch can actually be replicated by adding soy nuts to your greenery. Just make sure they’re baked or roasted.
Sadly, most salad bars and store bought croutons are made with high-calorie, sugar filled white bread. And, like many of the other items on the list, portion control tends to be an issue here. However, all croutons are not created equal. Whole wheat and multigrain croutons, added in moderation, can actually be a great, crunchy addition to your salad however.
Marinated/ Sautéed Veggies
More often than not, marinated and sautéed are code words for soaked in fat, be it oil or butter. While delicious, these vegetables can really pack on unnecessary calories. You would be better off going with fresh veggies and being a bit more heavy-handed with your vinaigrette than piling these on.
Overly Fatty Proteins
I love bacon as much as the next guy. But, most of us put way too much of it on our salads. Salami is no different. Just because they’re not fried, doesn’t mean they’re healthy. Opt for lean proteins like baked chicken and you’ll add just as must substance to your meal without going overboard.
As always, if you’ve got any questions, comments or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to me by commenting below or sending me an email directly.
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