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7 Sneaky Sugars That Sabotage Your Salad

JJ Virgin, CNS, BCHN
Nutrition Specialist & New York Times best seller By JJ Virgin, CNS, BCHN
Nutrition Specialist & New York Times best seller
JJ Virgin is a certified nutrition specialist, board certified holistic nutritionist, certified exercise physiologist, and New York Times best-selling author.

Everyone has THAT friend. The one who flaunts her imaginary health halo, piously abstaining from that double cheeseburger (did she just flash her "I'm judging you eyes" when you ordered?) while she sticks with a sensible dinner salad at your favorite bistro.

Break the news to her kindly: That "healthy" salad can pack far more sugar than any other entree on the menu.

Sneaky sugars can hide in foods you'd never suspect. Sure, a piece of chocolate cake is loaded with sugar, and maybe you realize a bowl of pasta will break down to sugar in your body, but did you know a salad can make a higher sugar impact than both of them?

Sneaky sugars hide in places you'd never suspect — whole foods, diet foods, packaged fruit, drinks, sauces and even sugar substitutes — but nowhere do they become more apparent than in restaurant salads. Let's take a look at the biggest sneaky salad sugar offenders.

1. Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar comes in two varieties. Authentic, traditional balsamic vinegar has been made in Italy for hundreds of years. It's expensive, aged for at least 12 years and prized by gourmet chefs and foodies.

Eager to get it on grocery shelves, manufacturers accelerate its journey with "condiment balsamic vinegar" that's aged as little as two months. Most commercial balsamic vinegar comes from white wine vinegar and has caramel coloring (for color and added sweetness), sugar and thickeners like cornstarch and gum. It can also have as many as four times the number of calories in a cup as regular cider vinegar.

2. Fat-free Dressings

Another health impostor: fat-free dressings. Don't even get me started about the maelstrom of horrific ingredients in these fake food atrocities. 1.5 ounces of one popular fat-free raspberry vinaigrette dressing packs nine grams of sugar. Because you don't have fat to satisfy you, you'll probably use two or three times that amount, practically converting your salad into a hot fudge sundae.

3. Dried Fruit

You wouldn't willingly pour candy onto your salad, but that's exactly what you're doing with raisins, dates and other dried fruit. A quarter-cup of one commercial dried fruit can pack 29 grams of sugar. Don't be fooled into thinking these add-ons are healthy because they're "fruit"; that's nearly six teaspoons of sugar in one serving!

4. Glazed Salmon

Another perfectly healthy food corrupted by sugar. Anything glazed on a menu should automatically trigger your red flag alarms for for high-sugar impact food. Just think of glazed proteins as a big 'ole glazed donut instead and the picture should become pretty clear.

5. Candied Walnuts

Imagine if your friend poured chocolate-covered almonds on top of his salad. You'd give him a funny look, right? That's exactly what you do with candied walnuts and other varities. Why would you take a perfectly healthy food — in this case, walnuts, which are rich in protein, healthy fats, fiber and nutrients — and dunk them in sugar?

6. Anything Crunchy

Restaurants routinely dump wonton chips, croutons and breaded chicken strips on top of a gargantuan salad. Translate any ingredient described as "crunchy" or "crispy" as "stay away for fast fat loss." A fresh, crisp salad isn't crunchy enough for you already?

7. Croutons & Bread Accompaniments

Why are restaurants such adamant bread pushers, from the big basket of baguette they set upon your arrival to that pita slab with your salad? Besides stimulating your appetite, bread provides a gateway to ordering dessert.

The solution? Don't let a menu dictate your choices.

You needn't settle for that high-sugar restaurant salad. Nothing on a menu is ever written in stone. You're in charge, so politely ask your server to modify your meal. If it arrives loaded with high-sugar ingredients and you eat it, it becomes your responsibility.

Salads don't need to be boring; load them with green veggies, sliced avocado, grilled chicken or salmon and slivered almonds. If you're not dairy intolerant, swap bleu cheese for a little goat cheese. Skip the creamy, sugary dressings for extra-virgin olive oil and vinegar.

Once you get the hang of it, you can transform any restaurant into a fat-burning, low-sugar meal. What one meal modification do you make at restaurants? Share yours below.

JJ Virgin, CNS, BCHN
JJ Virgin, CNS, BCHN
JJ Virgin, CNS, BCHN, is a celebrity nutrition and fitness expert who helps clients lose weight fast...
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