Most people think of salads as a health food, but if you’ve ever looked at the calories in salads at restaurants, you know that sometimes they pack more calories than a cheeseburger and fries!
Most people think of salads as a health food, but if you’ve ever looked at the calories in salads at restaurants, you know that sometimes they pack more calories than a cheeseburger and fries! The easiest way to make sure your salad is nutrient-dense, filling and tasty is to build your own. Jefferson registered dietitian Cathy Ricker shares tips for building a heart-healthy salad.
STEP 1: Start with a healthy base
Lettuce with dark leaves are packed with nutrients. Build a base with romaine, spinach or radicchio, toss in some potassium-rich endives or red cabbage—which is loaded with phytonutrients—and you’ve already elevated the flavor of your salad.
STEP 2: Bulk it up with the right veggies
Top your salad with the colors of the rainbow with a variety of vegetables—think carrots, peas, broccoli and cauliflower. A colorful mix will provide you with a variety of nutrients. Beware of anything drenched in oil, such as sun-dried tomatoes, which can load on extra calories. Choose fresh tomatoes instead, which are an excellent source of lycopene.
STEP 3: Add a protein
Stick with lean proteins like hardboiled eggs, skinless chicken, turkey, salmon or tuna rather than fried chicken breast/fingers. For vegetarian options, go for legumes like chickpeas or red beans.
STEP 4: Choose topnotch toppings
They might be tasty, but crunchy noodles, croutons and bacon bits are all salad sabotages. Instead, add a tablespoon of heart-healthy nuts like sliced almonds or walnuts or a small amount of cheese. Remember—go easy on the cheese. If you opt for a strong-flavored cheese like feta or Parmesan—both of which are lower in fat and calories—you won’t be as tempted to add too much.
STEP 5: Dress it up
Skip the creamy dressings and try to avoid any salads where mayonnaise is the main ingredient (i.e. tuna/chicken salad). Your best bet is making your own dressing with oil and vinegar or fresh herbs. Watch your serving size carefully of any dressing—this could be a hidden calorie bomb. My advice? Put it on the side and dip your fork instead of pouring it on your salad.