When we think healthy eating, what is one of the first foods that comes to mind? Salad. Salads can be a fabulously healthy option for sure, but is your salad making you fat?
Yes, I’m talking about a lettuce salad filled with leafy greens. The greens are great. What you cover them with is a different story. Many of the items we think are healthy salad toppings are secretly adding tons of sugar and are loaded with carbs! Yikes! If I’m going to consume that, I’d rather it be in a cookie! Here’s some food for thought to watch your waistline when eating salad.
The skinny (or not so skinny) on salad toppings…
Bacon. Mmmmm… bacon! While we all love the savory flavor that bacon crumbles and bacon bits add to our salad, it does make the “limit me” list because of it’s fat and salt content. Same goes for pepperoni too.
Cheese. Consumed in small quantities, cheese can be a healthy source of calcium and protein for you. However, it is easy to overdo it on cheese. So while I can’t classify this as a good choice or a poor choice, what I will say is be mindful of your portion and make a smart decision based on your body.
Dried fruit. Fruit is fruit whether its fresh or dried, right? We try to talk ourselves into thinking that the dried cranberries and raisins we’ve piled on our salads are healthy. While these wrinkled little tidbits of fruit may add the right amount of sweet to our salad, they are wrong for our bodies with their high carb and sugar content. So if you want fruit, go for the real thing. Fresh is always better!
Nuts. It’s literally nuts how diverse this little food can be. While nuts are a great source of fat and protien, not all nuts are made equal. Almonds are a fantastic choice. Cashews and peanuts, on the other hand, are higher in fat and carbs. Candied walnuts… be still my heart. I’m not a fan of walnuts, but I love these deliciously sugared pieces of candied fat. I know… it’s not the most becoming way to think of candied walnuts, but maybe it will help us both to remember to eat them sparingly.
Salad crunchies. As if lettuce doesn’t have enough crunch, we are always enticed with other flavor-filled extras to enhance our salad experience. Hello, chow mein noodles, crispy onions, and tortilla strips. Yah, I’m talking about you. What we need to ask ourselves is, “Is the crunch a big enough payoff for the empty calories and carbs?” While a serving of these items may only be about 35 calories, if I’m counting calories, I’d rather have a 100-calorie snack later that’s more fulfilling than just a tablespoon of crunchies on my salad! If you still want the crunch, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or McCormick’s Salad Toppings would be a better choice because of the protein they bring to the table.
Salad dressing. Just as bad, if not worse than calorie-loaded salad toppings, are the dressings we smother our salad with! What’s the healthiest choice? Light dressings! Why? Regular dressings are often loaded with calories, fat, carbs, and sugars. Fat-free takes out the fat and some of the calories. However, higher carbs and sugars replace the fat which ultimately has just made the dressing more unhealthy. Salad dressings to avoid: Poppy Seed, Honey Mustard, French, and thick creamy dressings.
Making good eating choices can be weighty. So how can we eat our healthy salad and still add some of the flavor and crunch that we love? Choose only 1-2 of these items and eat the proper portion size. Combine them with fresh fruit and veggies or a items from this list of healthy salad toppings and you’ll be gaining all the health benefits you set out for when choosing a salad… and still be able to have dessert too! (Ahem, a healthy dessert!)