For many, taking the first step to a healthier lifestyle means paying closer attention to the foods we eat.
Whether you’re dining out at your favorite restaurant, or cooking at home, salads are often a go-to meal in an
effort to cut back on calories. While there are hundreds of different ways to create this simple dish, if you’re not
paying attention to what ingredients you’re using, it may not end up being the healthiest option after all.
Registered dietitian, Danielle Fiskars Byers, debunks some of the common secrets about salads.
Myth: Fat free dressing is always the healthiest choice.
Not exactly. There are two issues to using fat-free
dressings. First, by removing the fat, manufacturers
have to add other ingredients such as high fructose
corn syrup, preservatives, and salt to make the product
taste good. In addition, fat is needed for our bodies to
absorb many of the vitamins found in a salad. By using
low-fat or fat-free dressing, you diminish your body’s
ability to use the nutrients of the meal.
Myth: All lettuce is created equal.
Lettuce or greens can range from crunchy to soft,
sweet to spicy. The rule of thumb is that darker greens
pack a bigger nutrient “punch.” For example, a serving
of Romaine lettuce contains seven times more Vitamin
A and C than iceberg lettuce does. In addition to being
good sources of vitamins, some greens also contain
folate, potassium, and fiber.
Experiment with different varieties to find o a mixture
that you like. For a peppery or spicy flavor try arugula,
watercress, or mustard greens. Romaine, green cabbage,
or iceberg lettuce provide a crisp and crunchy texture.
Incorporate chicory or escarole for a bold, slightly bitter
twist. Butter, Boston, or Bibb lettuce act as beautiful,
mild bases for salads topped with berries.
Myth: Chicken is the only way to add protein.
From obvious swaps, like hard boiled eggs, to more
creative ones, like chia seeds – the options are
endless! Versatile and nutritious, beans make an
excellent substitution for chicken and add both fiber
and protein (around 7 grams) to your dish. You can
also try roasted chickpeas (7 grams protein) to add a
satisfying crunch and replace croutons. Think outside
the box and sprinkle flax meal (3 grams protein) and
chia seeds (3 grams protein) onto your next bowl
of greens. Keep in mind chicken isn’t the only lean
protein – fish and seafood are also great substitutes.
Myth: Salads are always the lowest calorie
choice at a restaurant.
Most restaurant salads come tossed in the dressing and
likely contain more than the recommended serving size
– which is smaller than you may think (2 tablespoons).
Toppings such as cheese, croutons or tortilla strips,
fried chicken, or sweetened dried fruit can quickly add
up. Ask for your dressing or calorie-dense toppings
on the side so you can control what makes it into your
salad. Another option is to use a plain side salad as a
base then ask your server to add items you know are
healthy as sort of a “create your own” option.