The start of a new year brings fresh beginnings and resolutions for most of us. If you resolved to eat healthier, you probably figured that you should get more fruits and vegetables in your diet. One way that you can do this is by including salads. But, wait! Are all salads created equal? How do you know if your salad is “healthy”? That greatly depends on foods you use to make your salad.
There are many benefits to salads, but not all salads are low calorie. Let’s say you go out to eat a Chicken Taco Salad from a fast food restaurant. You may think you have made a good choice, but, that salad will cost you over 700 of your daily calories. Here is a tip, drop the taco shell. The shell alone can add 300 calories to your salad.
Vegetables. Salad’s generally start with a pile of greens. Remember the darker the greens the more vitamins and minerals that your salad will have to offer. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends at least 2 1/2 cups of vegetables daily. Try a rainbow of vegetables on your salad to get the benefits of different vitamins and avoid boredom. Popular choices are bell peppers, cucumbers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, bean sprouts, zucchini and squash.
Fruit. Fruits add sweetness and provide a variety of antioxidants. Apples, raisins, dried cranberries, and berries are good choices.
Protein. If you want to make a meal of your salad add good sources of protein, such as grilled chicken, hard boiled eggs, tuna, tofu or shredded cheese. Avoid adding meats that are battered or fried. Fried meats pack on the calories on any salad. You can also pack on the protein by adding beans to your salad. Garbanzo, black beans, and kidney beans are popular choices.
Where it gets tricky is when you add extra toppings. One tablespoon of dressing can add 50 to 80 calories. One fourth cup of dressing can add an additional 300 calories to a salad. Balsamic vinegar is a low calorie option, about 20 calories per tablespoon. If you still crave a creamy dressing, you can mix a small amount of ranch or blue cheese with some balsamic vinegar. Half a cup of croutons add anywhere between 60-90 calories. Half a cup of fried noodles is between 150-175 calories. Other healthy options are walnuts and almonds; they add additional protein and healthy fats to the salad.
Erica Lawson-Watson is a registered dietitian with Memorial Hospital.
For more info, visit us at Memorial Hospital.