6 Foods To Make Your Salad Even Healthier

"You've just turned your meal into dessert," I said, noticing the candied walnuts, dried cranberries and raspberry vinaigrette that topped the salad my friend had ordered.

Perhaps more than any other category, restaurants consistently mess up salads. Buzzwords like crispy, crunchy and creamy often translate into high-sugar impact disasters that stall fast, lasting fat loss. Even when they fall under the "healthy" menu section, salads can become a fat-bomb catastrophe.

Whether you're dining out, hitting a grocery salad bar, or making your own, bypass sneaky salad sugars and opt instead for these nutrient rock stars:

1. Dark, leafy greens

"Even though eating green veggies — especially dark leafy greens — is very important, this type of vegetable is often missing from our modern diet," writes Pauline Hanuise. Salads provide the perfect opportunity to meet your nutrient-rich greens quota. Kale and spinach are tops, and organic is better, but as long as you avoid iceberg lettuce (aka pesticides and water), nearly any leafy green works.

2. Avocado

Even the most reluctant fat-ophobe now admits this powerhouse fruit (yes, fruit) packs super-healthy monounsaturated fat, fiber and valuable nutrients like potassium. Sliced avocado or a little guacamole make delicious, nutrient-packed salad toppers. These green babies are anti-aging powerhouses, with one medium fruit packing an impressive 10 grams of fiber.

3. Raspberries

A little sweetness provides real zing, but load up on dried fruit and you've instantly made your salad a sugar bomb. Opt instead for fresh berries, which provide a powerhouse of nutrients, antioxidants and fiber. Raspberries become tops for the latter: one cup provides an impressive eight grams of fiber.

4. Lentils

Here's a bit of trivia: What separates lentils from other beans? In his book The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Dr. Jonny Bowden says unlike beans, legumes don't contain sulfur and therefore don't create gas. He mentions one cup of these tiny guys pack an impressive 18 grams of protein and 16 grams of fiber. Among their many benefits, lentils help stabilize blood sugar, increase energy levels and improve fat loss.

5. Wild salmon

Studies show protein steadies your blood sugar and keeps you full longer. Grilled chicken works fine, but wild salmon also provides anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants like astaxanthin. Whatever your protein, always order it grilled or baked, and steer clear of any "glazed" or "crispy" protein.

6. Extra virgin olive oil

Can fat help you lose fat? Yes, if it happens to be monounsaturated-rich EVOO. Austin Perlmutter mentions a Harvard study that showed "over an 18 month-period, overweight people eating moderate amounts of monounsaturated fats like olive oil lost around nine pounds, while those attempting a low-fat diet gained over six pounds." Bypass the creamy, sugary salad dressings for simple EVOO and red wine vinegar. Many restaurants stock high-quality EVOO in opaque glass jars, so ask for it and don't settle for regular olive oil.

What one healthy salad topper would you add to this list?

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.

JJ Virgin

Celebrity nutrition and fitness expert JJ Virgin helps clients lose weight fast by breaking free from food intolerance. She is author of New York Times best-sellers The Virgin Diet: Drop 7 Foods, Lose 7 Pounds, Just 7 Days and The Virgin Diet Cookbook: 150 Easy and Delicious Recipes to Lose Weight and Feel Better Fast. JJ is also best-selling author of Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy, a Huffington Post blogger, creator of the 4X4 Burst Training Workout, and the costar of TLC's Freaky Eaters. Learn more at jjvirgin.com.
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