Your salad might be packing a lot more than veggies and greens, like sugar, inflammatory fats, and a bowl full of unwanted calories.
When reviewing clients' food logs and meal journals I often see something they don't. Many people can't see where they could use improvement because they've already made many positive changes…but the devil is in the details.
One word that always piques my curiosity is salad. When I see "salad" as a regular entry I immediately want to know more, because there is often some accidental salad sabotage going on.
Most people consider salad a healthy option, which is true most of the time but not always.
Are you accidentally adding 400-plus calories and a whole lot of inflammation to your salad? What we put in and on top of our salads can make or break the healthiness of your big bowl of greens.
Here are three things to limit (or avoid altogether) at the salad bar:
1. Bottled salad dressing
Bottled dressings are often made with omega-6-heavy, inflammatory oils. These oils are generally extensively refined vegetable oils that are not only lacking in any nutritional benefit but may also pose harm to your health, contributing trans fats, preservatives, and artificial flavours.
To avoid a dressing-less salad, make your own and bring it with you. This way you control the ingredients and the portion size. There are plenty of compact salad dressing containers available, making it easy to pop it in your purse or computer bag.
If making your own is not an option, opt for the extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic, use a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, or a drizzle of tamari. Always ask for the dressing on the side (as opposed to mixed in) so you can control the amount you use.
2. Dried fruit
Raisins, cranberries, and other dried fruits add a delicious hint of sweetness to salads, but overdoing it can quickly override all good intentions.
A quarter (¼) cup of dried cranberries packs 18 grams of sugar and almost 100 calories. If you really enjoy that sweet in your salad, choose fresh fruit like apple slices or berries or sweeter veggies like sweet peppers or roasted sweet potato.
3. Fried anything is best left off the salad plate, no matter the food.
True, fried vegetables or garnishes add a nice little crunch to salads and are lovely every now and then, especially when you've ordered a gourmet salad at the newest restaurant.
For everyday lunches or dinners, however, a regular addition of fried foods will increase the saturated fat, calories, and, potentially, the inflammatory factor of your salad.
To get that crunch in a healthier way, add one to two tablespoons of raw chopped nuts or seeds.
To summarize: Pass on the fried additions, dried fruit, and unknown salad dressing, and opt for nuts and seeds, fresh berries, and your own vinaigrette.