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Not All Salads Are Created Equal

April 25, 2010

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Conscious of my health and weight, I always assumed that eating a large salad was the ideal meal: filling and healthy. That’s why I’ll never forget how cheated I felt when I discovered that what I thought was a healthy, diet-friendly salad was a 1,500 calorie disaster. When my favorite restaurant decided to include the fat and calorie content on the menu, I couldn’t believe that the salad I had once believed to be nutritious was actually worse than eating a cheeseburger and fries.

saladImage courtesy of Anushruti via Flickr

“What do you expect?,” my friend Lauren asked, surprised by how shocked I was. “It makes perfect sense to me. Calories in, calories out. It’s that simple! The more stuff you add to a salad, the more fat and calories you are adding. Think about it. Cheese, chicken, croutons, beans, crispy noodles – salads are loaded with calories and fat.”

I knew she was right, but it didn’t seem to make sense. I’d grown up believing that salads are supposed to be a healthy option! They can’t all be loaded with hidden and empty calories. That’s when I started becoming more aware of what exactly was in my salad – and when they became healthier. When preparing food at home and ordering from restaurants, keep in mind: not all salads are created equal. Create yours to be filling – and healthy!

Six Ways to Keep Your Salads Filling and Healthy:

1. Keep it light

Choose fat-free, light, or low-fat dressings and cheeses. Most dressings and cheeses are loaded with calories and fat. If you can find a tasty light version of your favorite dressing or cheese, stick with that. Don’t be discouraged. Almost every dressing or cheese has a light (and delicious) counterpart.

2. Don’t get sideswiped

Order all dressings and cheeses on the side. Dip your salad into your dressing and gradually sprinkle the cheese. You’ll be surprised at how much less you actually need to make your salad taste great!

3. Never second guess veggies

Never worry that you’re adding too many vegetables. They are the ideal salad ingredients to fill up on, because so many of them are full of nutrients. Add as many veggies as you prefer, and try a variety of types. They will add flavor and color to your salad.

4. Swap your crunches

Fried ingredients such as croutons, nuts, crispy noodles, and chips should only be included in moderation. A small portion won’t hurt, but an even healthier option is to swap them out altogether. Crushed up EdgeOn Crisps or pretzels add a great crunch without adding too much fat and calories. Adding EdgeOn Cheese Crisps kills two birds with one stone – as a substitute for fattening crunches and cheese. How do you like that?!

5. Be full

Don’t get too paranoid about what’s in your salad and deprive yourself of a filling meal as a result. If you do that, you won’t be satisfied or fulfilled – and will end up snacking immediately after you eat, defeating the purpose of a healthy meal. Proteins, such as grilled chicken, turkey, egg whites, tofu, dry tuna and salmon, are wonderful additions to any salad – and they’re filling!

6. That’s a wrap!

Last but not least, don’t fall a victim to the rolls and bread sticks served with your salad. Many restaurants serve them loaded with butter and consequently, fat. If you can’t pass up the bread basket, opt for it dry. When eating at home, wrap your salad bites in Flatout Flatbread. Eating your salad as a wrap can make it a more satisfying meal.


We’d love to hear your fresh perspective!

  • What are your favorite salad ingredients?
  • Are there any restaurant salads you used to love, but now avoid?
  • Do you have a favorite type of salad dressing?

Bon appetit!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 28, 2010 3:43 pm

    GREAT post. Its scary how many restaurant salads are just over the top on the calorie and fat count. Switching up the veggies keeps salads fun! I like to add crunchy fruits too- like apples. Favorite ingredients- artichokes, asparagus, green beans, peppers, onions, corn, feta or goat cheese! For dressing, I either use a little olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar or go with salsa! Have you seen Sabrina’s I love Salad Challenge (Rhodey girl tests)?

    • April 29, 2010 9:04 pm

      Thanks, Erica! Those are some great salad suggestions. We just checked out the Salad Challenge from Sabrina – so many gorgeous options! Is it dinnertime yet?

  2. May 14, 2010 11:24 pm

    Love these tips!! As nutritious as something like pecan-crusted chicken sounds, it is packed with calories after being pan fried.

    I like to use salsa occasionally as a dressing on salads (sounds strange, I know, top veggies with more veggies 😉 ) but it works really well, especially with Mexican-themed salads!

    And when I get dressing on the side (always!) I like to dip my fork into the dressing, then stab up some salad. That way I still get a big taste of the dressing without dousing my veggies too much.

    Keep up the great work!

    • May 15, 2010 9:21 pm

      Karla ~ Thank you for the comment! We actually love using salsa as a dressing on occasion, too. Thanks for the great tips!

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