Healthy eating means consuming plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and the humble salad is the cornerstone of eating healthily, and even certain fast food restaurants are now offering salads as a healthier alternative. However, a lot of people often add the wrong ingredients to a salad, causing it to be packed with calories and making it a lot less healthy. Throw on a dressing
that is full of saturated fat, and you have a salad that could be packing more calories and fat that the greasiest hamburger.
The Hidden Fat and Calories in Salads
For example, a simple Cobb salad is packed with more than 75 grams of fat and more than 1,000 calories thanks to its ingredients of bacon, blue cheese and creamy salad dressing. For a lot of people, consuming that many calories is over half of their daily recommended intake, in addition they will be consuming their entire daily intake of fat.
Despite this, you should not write-off salads, as prepared properly they can be extremely filling, as well as being low in calories and saturated fat. A simple potato salad is a low fat, low calorie option, and there are plenty of great potato salad recipes around for you to try.
Choose a Good Base for your Salad
The first thing you need to do is to start with the base of your salad, something that a lot of people forget, either that or they just start with the standard iceberg lettuce. In order to make a filling, low calorie salad, you should look at alternative greens, such as baby spinach or mesclun salad mix.
Adding Fresh Vegetables to the Mix
The next step on the road to the perfect salad recipe is to add plenty of fresh vegetables to the top of your green base. In order to get the maximum health benefits from your salad, you should aim to add as many different colored vegetables, such as red and green peppers, red onion, carrots and cucumbers.
To turn your salad into a meal, the next step is to add protein to your salad, and if your source of protein is from animals, then you need to make sure that it comes from a lean source. Items such as tuna, salmon, turkey or chicken (skinless of course), or lean steak, are a great example of low fat sources of protein that can be added to a salad. For those people that wish to avoid protein from animal sources, such as vegetarians, you can replace these items with tofu, pinto beans, kidney beans or chickpeas. In order to stay healthy, avoid adding such items as salami and bacon, as these are high in fat, and it is vital that you avoid adding items that have been fried.
Go Easy on the Extras
Now that you have got your combination of vegetables, greens and protein it is time to think about adding some extras. Adding extras can add flavor and character to your salad, however, you need to be careful that you avoid adding unnecessary calories and fat. You can add things such as Parmesan, goat, Swiss, Feta or Cheddar cheese so long as you limit it to just a couple of tablespoons. Chopped nuts such as almonds, pecans and walnuts are a great addition to a salad, although it is important to limit these to 1 tablespoon, and the same goes for pumpkin and sunflower seeds. If you love adding olives to your chicken salad recipe, then limit them to 10.
Don’t Dress it up Too Much
A lot of people will not eat a salad unless it is drenched in a dressing, and the major problem with dressings is that they can add a lot of calories to even the healthiest of salads. A mere tablespoon of vinaigrette can include as many 85 calories, whereas a ranch dressing can be over 100.
If you are ordering salad in a restaurant, ask for the dressing to be on the side, and if they only offer standard full fat versions then you should limit the amount you use to as little as possible. If you can, always select the low calorie or light and low fat option if it is available, but better still, get used to making your own salads from scratch, it is much more fun and healthier.
As you can see, there is much more to creating the perfect healthy salad than just throwing a few ingredients into a bowl and adding a dressing. If you get it wrong, you could end up eating something that is unhealthier than a quarter-pounder with cheese. Get it right and there is almost no end to the amount of healthy, nutritious and interesting salad recipes out there for you to try.