Salads can make a wonderfully healthy meal, but when the ingredients aren’t chosen wisely, they can also be deceptively fattening with rich creamy dressings and fatty toppings like bacon that pile on the calories. Learning how to navigate the salad bar options can take some time, but the reward is certainly delicious.
When you go to choose a salad, fill your bowl with healthy, low-fat ingredients. Here are some of our favorites:
- Chick peas (garbanzo beans) are high in protein, fiber, folate and manganese. (Folate is good for blood cell and heart health)
- Tomatoes a great source of fiber and vitamins A and C. Vitamin C boosts your immunity and promotes healing.
- Carrots are a great source of vitamins A and K. Vitamin A is good for your eyes, skin, bones and teeth.
- Red kidney beans are high in protein, fiber, folate and phosphorus. Protein and fiber help you feel fuller longer.
- Spinach is high in antioxidants and flavonoids, which are good for fighting cancer and inflammation.
- Beets are a very good source of folate and manganese, which is important for your metabolism.
- Mushrooms are a great source of riboflavin, which helps prevent premature aging.
- Broccoli is a good source of vitamin C and K. Vitamin K is good for bone health and blood clotting.
Here are some more tips for a healthy salad:
- When choosing leafy salad greens, choose the darkest greens you can find (they have higher levels of nutrients)
- Choose fresh vegetables instead of canned when possible – they have less sodium
- Pick only one starchy choice (like beans, corn, peas, potatoes, or pasta) per salad. Beans are best because you can also get protein, too
- Choose a lean protein for your salad to keep you full for longer like egg whites, grilled chicken, turkey, tofu, or water-packed tuna
- Dress your salad in low-fat dressing (2 tablespoons at most) or a little olive oil with vinegar or lemon juice
Salad bar options to avoid (or use only sparingly)
- Foods dressed in lots of mayonnaise such as creamy pasta salads, tuna or chicken salad, potato salad, egg salad, or cole slaw (try regular tuna instead of tuna salad with mayonnaise for example)
- Creamy salad dressings like ranch, blue cheese, Caesar, or Thousand Island, which can easily add on 300 calories! (Try heart-healthy olive oil and vinegar instead)
- Croutons, crunchy noodles, or bacon bits (Try peppers or celery, or a small sprinkle of nuts or seeds for crunch)
- Cheese (Try choosing a cheese like parmesan or feta instead of cheddar, American, or Jack; you can use less because it has more flavor)