The Top 8 Unhealthy Things People Love to Ruin Their Salads With
Salads may never be as popular in America as burgers and
fries, but it's safe to say that they're an adored and integral
part of many people's daily diets -- particularly those trying
to eat healthy.
In fact, some 6 million bags of ready-to-eat salad are sold
in the United States every day, and even McDonald's says it
sold 80 million pounds of spring mix for its premium salads
in 2005 to satisfy their salad-loving customers.
What makes a salad healthy? To start, choose red leaf
lettuce, romaine or spinach instead of iceberg lettuce
(which has few nutrients).
However, all salads are not equal when it comes to nutrition,
and just because it has a little lettuce and is served in
a bowl does not make it inherently healthy. So if you're eating
salads in the interest of healthy eating, make sure you're
not piling on these nutrition no-no's (and then check out
the healthy and tasty alternatives that are A-OK to pile on).
1. Processed Salad Dressings
Most salad dressing sold in grocery stores contain lots of
health-harming ingredients, such as:
They are high in bad fats and low in most things healthy,
plus most people put on a lot more than one serving, making
the bad fat content even higher.
Healthy Alternative: We said processed salad dressings because
not all salad dressing is inherently bad. In fact, you can
make your own very healthy salad dressing quickly just by
combining some olive oil, lemon juice and garlic, or a little
olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard. Tomato salsas
also make great salad toppers.
If you can't bear to part with a bottled dressing, there
are healthier versions on the market that contain mostly whole
ingredients and healthier oils and fats. You can find these
in your local health food store (even these will still not
be as healthy as your own home-made variety, though).
2. Bacon Bits
Real bacon bits contain harmful preservatives called sodium
nitrites, along with lots of bad fats and sodium. Imitation
bacon bits, though lower in fat and typically made of vegetable
protein, are still highly processed and not nutritious.
Healthy Alternative: For a little bit of crunch in your salad,
try a tablespoon or two of raw almonds, pistachios, cashews
or walnuts (though they're high in fat, it's the healthy kind).
Chopped celery, jicama
or radishes -- even raw green beans or pea pods -- also work
Cheese is high in fat and calories (1/4 cup of shredded cheese
will add over 100 calories), but most of it used on salads
is also highly processed. This means that it's probably got
added salt, artificial flavors and artificial colors.
Healthy Alternative: It's OK to use a little cheese on your
salad, just use it sparingly. Ideally, choose natural cheeses
like feta, blue cheese, or Parmesan over processed cheeses
with added flavors and colors (like yellow American cheese).
Beware of restaurant salads that advertise "crispy"
ingredients like chicken, noodles, tortilla strips or
even calamari -- "crispy" is another way of
Croutons are usually made from white, processed bread, and
add nothing but empty carbs to your salad. They're high in
calories, can be high in bad fats, and, if you've ever read
the label on a package in the grocery store you'll see,
most are loaded with artificial ingredients like preservatives,
hydrogenated oils and artificial flavors.
Healthy Alternative: Skip the croutons entirely. You can
replace their flavor and crunch with lemon or lime juice and
fresh veggies (raw broccoli and cauliflower, baby carrots,
etc.) or nuts.
Salami, ham and most processed meats contain harmful sodium
nitrites as preservatives, and will add a hefty dose of saturated
fat to your salad.
Healthy Alternative: Instead of salami or ham, opt for lower
fat meats like chicken and turkey. If possible, choose free-range,
organic varieties that will not contain additives, harmful
preservatives or pesticides (from feed).
6. Fried Meats
You've surely seen salads that contain "crispy"
or "breaded" chicken. This is another way of saying
"fried," and is definitely not a good choice for
your salad. Fried foods contain harmful fats, and lots of
them, along with a lot of empty calories.
Healthy Alternative: Baked or grilled chicken or turkey breast
is a fine addition to a salad, and will give you the added
protein you'll need to get through the day. If you miss the
flavor that comes from the fried meat, try getting creative
and adding some unique, but healthy, flavors to your salad,
such as artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, garbanzo beans or
7. Iceberg Lettuce
Although iceberg lettuce isn't actually unhealthy, it's not
particularly healthy, either, because it doesn't contain many
Healthy Alternative: Trading in your iceberg lettuce for
some romaine, red leaf or green leaf lettuce, or using spinach,
is an easy way to add lots of nutrients to your day.
8. Candied/Flavored Nuts
Some salads come with candied nuts that add a lot of unnecessary
sugar. There are also flavored packaged nuts sold specifically
as salad toppers, which contain sugar, artificial flavors
and even hydrogenated oils.
Healthy Alternative: Choose a small amount of plain, raw
nuts to add crunch to your salad. For some healthy sweetness,
try raisins, dried cranberries, grapes or chopped pear, apple
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