How to Ruin a Healthy Salad

Yes, a Salad Is Good for You, But ...

Healthy salad
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Eating a salad sounds healthy, doesn't it? I picture a big pile of tasty greens, a variety of fresh veggies and maybe a few nuts or other crunchy things, all topped off with a modest portion of the dressing. In fact, a salad is an excellent vehicle for getting more fruits and vegetables into your diet.

But a good salad can go bad when you pour high-calorie toppings and dressings over a pile of plain lettuce and add various things that have been deep-fried. Here are some of the common ways people ruin their healthy salads.

Using Only Iceberg lettuce

Iceberg Lettuce
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Iceberg lettuce has a nice crunch, but almost no nutritional value beyond being a source of water -- there just aren't many vitamins and not much fiber. And, since it's fundamentally dull, a pile of iceberg lettuce practically screams for globs of high-fat dressings.

Keep your salad on the healthy side. Use darker greens, such as spinach, leaf lettuce, arugula, dandelion greens, kale, watercress and basil leaves. These greens tend to be richer in folate, vitamin A, minerals, and phytochemicals.

Using Lots of Croutons

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Croutons don't add much nutritional value, but they can add a lot of calories, A one-half cup serving of croutons has about 100 calories.

So if you like a few crunchy toppings, do this instead -- add a tablespoon or two of chopped walnuts or flax seeds. They've got omega-3 fatty acids that are good for your heart and nervous system, plus they've got fiber, which your body needs for a healthy digestive system.

Adding Too Much Cheese

Cheddar Cheese
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Cheese is a Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde of the nutrition world. It's an excellent source of calcium and protein, so it certainly can be included in a healthy salad, but it's also loaded with sodium, saturated fat and calories. 

So what do you do if you're a cheese lover?

Easy! Just pay attention to how much cheese you're using. A serving of cheese is about one and one-half ounces - or about the size of a pair of dice. Go with a dry cheese like Parmesan or add some reduced-fat cheese. Try alternative vegetarian cheese substitutes made from rice or soy can add cheesy goodness without the extra calories.

Choosing Fried Meat or Taco Shells

Taco Salad
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Adding a healthy protein source can transform a salad into a full-fledged balanced meal. But adding deep-fried chicken strips or chunks of processed lunch meats will turn your healthy salad into a health disaster. 

Be careful with taco salads. A typical taco salad made with seasoned ground meat and globs of sour cream in a deep-fried taco shell could have well over 1,000 calories.

Keep your salad lean and mean by adding cooked chicken or turkey breast, a couple of grilled shrimp or a sprinkling of legumes.

Drenching Your Salad With Dressing

Salad dressings are high in calories.
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Salads are usually topped with salad dressing -- hence the name -- but sadly, most commercial dressings are high in calories and fat. A single serving of salad dressing is only two tablespoons and has anywhere from 100 to 200 calories. 

Forgo the salad dressing and squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice on your salad. Or get creative with some salsa as a topping, try balsamic vinegar without the oil. When you order a salad at a restaurant, ask for the dressing to be served on the side. You'll be amazed at how many calories you can save.

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