Salads are typically considered a “safe” choice when following a weight-loss meal plan. That’s partly true; salads are a great way to pack more veggies into your diet, but they can interfere with your weight-loss efforts if you aren’t careful. Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep your salads weight loss friendly:
- Do use the “2/3 rule.” Two-thirds of the salad is made up of dark leafy greens like spinach, arugula and romaine, and colorful veggies like red peppers, shredded carrots and snap peas, while one-third is devoted to small portions of healthy fats (nuts, olives, avocado) and lean proteins (chicken, fish, hard-boiled eggs).
- Do survey the salad bar. Salad bars offer a plethora of tantalizing toppings. Slowly survey the salad bar. Allow yourself time to mindfully decide on the toppings that will add flavor and fun to your salad — and contribute to your weight loss efforts — before adding them to your plate. Tuna, pasta, and bean salads are often high-calorie, so it’s best to avoid these.
- Do think outside the bowl. Preparing the same salad day-after-day can become boring and unappetizing. Avoid getting into a salad rut by experimenting with interesting ingredients such as fresh herbs, navy beans, lentils, sprouts, and kiwi slices. Explore a local farmer’s market for new ideas to keep things interesting.
- Do be wary of salads when eating out. Restaurant salads aren’t as healthy as you might expect. They can be thousands of calories, laden with sodium, and contain trans-fats. Check out this link for the worst salad offenders.
- Don’t overdo it with the toppings. Adding a variety of toppings to salads can be fun, but not all toppings are created equal when it comes to calories. Calorie-dense toppings, such as dried fruit, nuts, seeds and cheese, can contribute upwards of 400 to 600 additional calories if portions are not kept in check. For example, ¼ cup of dried fruit + ¼ cup nuts + 1 ounce cheddar cheese + 2 Tablespoons of sunflower seeds = ~500 calories.
- Don’t drench with dressing. Dressing is one of the easiest ways to add excess calories to your salad. Creamy dressings are typically higher in calories, but that doesn’t mean your go-to vinaigrette can be poured on without hesitation. Use dressing sparingly by measuring out 2 Tablespoons and then pouring it onto your salad. When eating out, use half the amount of dressing that comes “on the side.” There is the option of making homemade salad dressing and controlling the ingredients that go into it. The dressing below will tastefully dress a four-serving salad.
Easy Balsamic Dressing
- 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon canola oil
- 1 Tablespoon minced shallot or red onion
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- Cracked pepper to taste
Measure ingredients in a bowl and whisk together.
– Mary Ligotti-Hitch, R.D. is a registered dietitian with the Weight Control Center at Beaumont Health Center. Did you know that the center offers cooking classes to kids in the community? View a list of upcoming classes here.