It’s official; Americans have managed to turn even the healthiest, purest meals into weapons of diet destruction! The salad, a beautiful bed of lettuce, vegetables, and lean protein has been transformed into the nutritional equivalent of a green cheeseburger, without the same satisfaction. Stop being fooled by salads hiding hundreds of unwanted calories!
By following the tips below, you’ll be armed with the knowledge needed to avoid caloric bombs in any situation.
1. Eating Out
You somehow manage to avoid the cheeseburger, nachos, chicken fingers, and french fries and instead order a seemingly “healthy” salad. Although a sensible safe alternative, your salad may actually contain upwards of over 1000 calories. Unfortunately, the restaurant industry has made it nearly impossible to order a healthy meal without a nutritional degree. So how then do you decode a menu?
First, pick a salad that contains a lean protein, such as grilled chicken, shrimp, or fish, while avoiding any crispy or sautéed options. If the description includes items such as candied walnuts, tortilla chips, or six different types of cheeses, then even a couple hours of cardio won’t reverse the damage. Instead, choose an option that consists of mainly vegetables and ask for certain ingredients to be excluded.
Most establishments are happy to increase their customer satisfaction and will gladly substitute toppings. As for the dressing, I usually order balsamic or red wine vinegar. Regardless of what dressing you choose, always ask for it “on the side” and add it sparingly as needed.
What happens if you can’t find a single salad that meets the above criteria? Don’t give up and order an enormous cheese quesadilla or cheesesteak! Instead ask your server for a large house salad with a side of grilled chicken.. or mahi-mahi, or salmon, or even steak. You’re the customer, which means you’re satisfaction matters. Just remember to ask politely and smile!
2. The Salad Bar
The salad bar is a perfect opportunity to make a delicious, nutrient-packed meal. It enables you to pick and choose your toppings, and in doing so make a tasty masterpiece. But you must proceed with caution! Warning: Adding the wrong ingredients to your salad could result in weight loss failure.
It seems simple, but when eating at a salad bar, make sure you only eat a salad. Skip the pre-mixed items such as potato and pasta salad, which are full of fattening, unhealthy ingredients. Also, as tempting as the fresh bread or garlic sticks may be, they are capable of negating all your hard work and have no place on your plate.
Some additional health bombs to avoid at all costs include cheese, croutons, bacon, and creamy dressings. While these toppings all add flavor, they will also add to your waistline! Smarter alternatives to ensure your salad is both savory and delicious include a few roasted red peppers, olives, or chickpeas.
Even worse than the above, clearly unhealthy, offenders are the caloric bombs parading around as smart options. A trick to keep in mind is that it’s all about the adjectives. For example, nuts are a great source of natural fats, and when used sparingly, can keep you full for hours after lunch. The problem is that most salad bars offer glazed or candied nuts, which means you’re more likely to get a sugar high than any nutritional benefit. Dried fruit is another example of a once healthy topping turned disastrous. Skip the craisins and raisins, and instead add a few fresh berries to your salad.
3. Your Kitchen
Want to know the best part of making a salad at home? You can control the quantity and quality of ingredients you use! A homemade salad is a perfect opportunity to add the items you can’t when eating out. Cheese? Sure! Just as long as its not a mountain of full-fat American! By adding a little something extra, for example non-fat feta cheese, you can curb cravings and really enjoy every bite.
While I usually recommend using balsamic vinegar as a salad dressing, sometimes you need a little variety. I like to switch things up by using store-bought, low-sugar dressings. They might not be the cleanest option, but they are certainly better than the mountain of chocolate cake you might binge on if you aren’t enjoying your meal.
Last, but certainly not least, don’t ever let your salads get boring! A boring salad is an unsatisfying salad, which makes for an unsatisfied person… and unsatisfied people notoriously make horrible health decisions. Think of lettuce as a green canvas, and you as Michelangelo’s prodigy. Time to make the Sistine Chapel of salads!
Let Me Know: What health topics are you interested in learning about?
– ALYSE SCAFFIDI
Alyse Scaffidi is the founder of Bite Sized Fitness. She is a Doctorate of Pharmacy student and knows how hard it is to make time for your health. Check out the sites below for more motivational tips, delicious recipes, and ideas for healthy eating.