Common Misperceptions of Salads

Original Image by Ines Hegedus-Garcia via Flckr
Original Image by Ines Hegedus-Garcia via Flckr

By: Nikki Nies

I’m currently in my community rotation in my dietetic internship.  I recently gave a presentation to Avalon corporation’s employees.  The premise for the presentation was to debunk some weight loss myths.

As an introduction, I asked the employees what they eat for lunch.  Whether they were bringing lunch from home or eating out, 9/10 they stated they ate salads for lunch.  I got a kick out of it, as yes, salads CAN be healthy.  Yet, there’s such a spectrum of variety of others foods that are screaming to receive attention as well.

A 2005 study on the Big Four fast food chains–Burger King, McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut, found that 5/8 of the salads used as “evidence” of their healthy contents were actually higher than normal for salt and fat content.    For example, a classic cobb salad with chopped bacon, egg, blue cheese, avocado, and creamy dressing, or a standard restaurant chef’s salad loaded with Swiss cheese, roast beef, eggs, and dressing  can add up to over 1000 calories and 80 g of fat!

Unfortunately, the toppings and/or salad dressings that people use on their salads can be the culprit to extra calories and fat, which backfires the plan to eat healthier.

Tips for healthier salads:

  • Fill up your salad with veggies: at 25 calories or less per 1/2 cup serving, it’s a great bang for your buck for nutrients!
  • Choose a variety of colors for your salad–red and yellow bell peppers, red onions, broccoli, carrots, sugar snap peas, cucumbers and hard boiled eggs
  • Stick with raw or lightly steamed vegetables instead of fried or those drenched in marinades
  • Opt for lean protein to stay fuller longer: i.e. 1/2 cup tofu; 3/4 cup of chickpeas, lentils or kidney beans; 3 oz. skinless chicken; water packed chunk light tuna, wild salmon, wild sirloin steak, 4 egg whites
  • Avoid fatty meats, such as bacon or or salami
  • Choose one extra goodie: aiming for between 40-70 calories; i.e. 2 T of cheddar, feta, goat cheese, Parmesan or Swiss; 1 T of chopped walnuts, pecans or sliced almonds; 1 T of sesame seeds, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds; 1 oz. avocado; 10 small olives; 1/4 cup croutons; 2 T dried cranberries or raisins
  • Lightly dress salad! Unfortunately a healthy salad can quickly become unhealthy when drenched with a fatty dressing; when ordering, ask for the dressing on the side, limiting use to 1 to 1 1/2 T
  • When available, opt for fat free, light or low fat salad dressings
  • Make your own vinaigrette: using one part oil to 3 parts vinegar with mustard, lemon or added spices of your choice

I applaud the employees for wanting to healthier, but I wanted to encourage them to eat more variety, to get more nutrients and to have more fun with their meals!



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