The virtues of a salad can be vast. Loaded with fresh veggies, some lean protein, sprinkled with some fresh fruit and a touch of healthy fats and it can be super healthy, scrumptious, satisfying and calorically friendly. However, if one isn’t careful they can be eating as many (if not more) calories and saturated fat than if they chose a cheeseburger and fries.
Being Salad Savvy
Maybe you are thinking, “Hey, how bad can a salad be?” I recognize how innocent a salad seems and how easy it is to fall into the salad trap. Clients feel as if they are automatically making the best choice possible simply by ordering a salad. Yet not enough attention is being made to what goes into the salad.
I am not suggesting that we turn our salads into bowls of blandness that mimic rabbit food. But I am proposing that we become a bit more thoughtful of the ingredients of what goes into our salads.
Most salads that are eaten at a restaurant are laden with too many foods from high calorie add-ins or TASTE ENHANCERS . This doesn’t have to be the case. A salad can easily fit into the MEAL TRIFECTA formula, be healthy, calorie friendly, and be exactly what you want it to be by simply following and understanding my guidelines below.
“The Base” : The lettuce forms the base of the salad. This sets the tone of your salad. If you are looking for peppery tasting greens go for arugula or watercress. If you are looking for more milder tasting greens choose a lettuce like romaine or bibb lettuce. Sure, the darker the greens the more rich in nutrients it contains but don’t worry too much about this. You will get plenty of nutrients from the other veggies in the salad and even the “lighter greens” contain fiber and water making them salad-suitable.
“The Added Vegetables”: Add as many vegetables you would like to “the base”. In my opinion, this is what makes a salad — well — a salad…unless of course you are making a Caesar salad which only contains romaine lettuce in the vegetable category.
Choosing vegetables that span a variety of colors not only makes the salad more visually appealing, which will only add to its overall satisfaction, but different colors means different nutrients. The sky’s the limit here, even if they aren’t included in this list. Just make sure that if the vegetable is made with or marinated in fat you count that towards the “Caloric/Fat Add-In” and use that vegetable sparingly.
“The Carbohydrate/Starch Add-In”: You may be surprised to see this category when discussing a salad since most people choose to eat salads when they are trying to eliminate carbs. But carbs sneak in. This is OK, just be aware of it so you don’t DOUBLE DIP and the calories don’t creep on you without satisfying your hunger and taste buds.
Having a “carbohydrate or starch add-in” can add another dimension to the salad. If you choose not to incorporate a food from this category into your salad feel free to add a piece of whole wheat bread or a whole wheat pita on the side.
“Protein Sources”: If the salad is the main course it needs to be satisfying long term. Therefore, you need to include a protein. Make sure your protein is lean or extra lean. I find most people skimp on the protein when they are eating a salad for lunch or dinner, so make sure not to skimp on it.
“Caloric/Fat Add-Ins”: This is where a salad can really go astray. Too many salads, especially at restaurants, incorporate too many “caloric or high fat add-ins”. Besides being high in calories these items can be high in saturated fat. The calories that these “add-ins” contribute aren’t typically compensated for later since they don’t physically add to our satisfaction and are therefore considered TASTE ENHANCERS.
Next time you are ordering a salad watch out for these and don’t forget, salad dressing counts too! Choosing a low fat or fat free salad dressing would be the optimal choice and you wouldn’t need to count it towards this category.
It isn’t uncommon for a salad to have four or more of these “caloric/fat add-ins “ amass the vegetables, protein and carbohydrate. My list includes the healthier most appropriate foods in this category but crunchy noodles, lo mein noodles, wonton crisps, fried onions, bacon, sour cream, and salads made with “fried” proteins are also considered “calorie/fat add-ins” and are SOMETIMES/FUN FOODS, therefore weren’t included in this list.
“THE ANATOMY OF A SALAD”
(pick at least 2)
|Arugula||Artichoke Hearts, jarred in water||Apple, sliced or diced||Chicken, white meat||Avocado|
|Baby Spinach||Asparagus, blanched or cooked||Beans, black, garbanzo, kidney, pinto, red, white||Eggs, whole &/or whites||Bacon, turkey|
|Bibb Lettuce (Boston, Butterhead)||Beans, green, italian||Beets||Ham, deli sliced||Cheese|
|Cabbage||Broccoli, raw or blanched||Berries, all varieties||Roast Beef||Croutons|
|Endive||Brussell Sprouts, shaved or cooked||Corn||Steak, flank||Dressing, regular|
|Mache||Carrots||Dried Fruit (no sugar or sulfur added)||Salmon||Nuts, all varieties|
|Radicchio||Cauliflower||Edamame||Sardines||Seeds, all varieties|
|Red Leaf Lettuce||Celery||Grains, cous cous, orzo, quinoa, whole wheat pasta||Tofu|
|Spring Mix||Mushrooms||Grapes||Turkey, white meat|
|Peppers||Mandarin Orange, segments|
|Roasted Red Peppers, jarred in water||Peach, slices|
|Snow Peas||Pear. slices|