Salad Sabotage?!?

Today’s contribution is by Alissa Palladino MS, RDN, LD, ACSM-CPT – Registered Dietitian with Good Measure Meals.

Salad is often a go-to meal when you’re trying to eat more healthfully. But if you’re not mindful about your choices, that salad may unintentionally be sabotaging your health goals – and your chance of winning FitTrip!

Whether or not your salad supports your health goals comes down to what’s in it. Many salads available at restaurants and fast food joints contain more calories, saturated fat, sodium and/or sugar than seemingly less healthy menu items. The same can be true when navigating a salad bar. By the time you’ve add dried fruit, nuts, cheese, croutons, tortilla strips, deli meats, fried chicken, and dressing to your greens, you might as well have gone with the burger! On the other hand, a salad that’s just lettuce and tomato is not only boring, it doesn’t provide nearly enough calories and lacks key nutrients that keep you full like protein, complex carbs and healthy fats. A skimpy salad will leave you hungry and much more likely to find yourself hitting the vending machine or raiding the pantry a couple hours later.

Instead of skimping or splurging, make your salad into a nutritionally balanced, satisfying meal by following these guidelines.

Go Green: Start with a base of greens like spinach, romaine or arugula. Add as many non-starchy veggies as you want: tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, carrots, cucumbers, mushrooms etc. Veggies are naturally high in filling fiber, water, and a host of essential vitamins and antioxidants.

Power Up with Protein: Add 3-4 ounces (palm sized serving) of lean protein such as grilled chicken, roast turkey, tuna, salmon, tofu, or hard-boiled eggs to keep you satisfied. 

Include Carbs: Fiber-rich, complex carbs provide sustained energy to fuel your muscles and brain. Try a half cup of black beans, chickpeas, lentils, corn, or whole grains like farro and quinoa. Fresh fruit like apples, berries, oranges and pears are also great options.

Top it off: Choose one or two higher calorie toppings for flavor and additional nutrients, such as nuts, seeds, cheese, dried fruit, or avocado. Limit to a couple tablespoons.

Dress for Success: For dressing, stick to heart-healthy olive oil plus vinegar or an oil-based vinaigrette. Limit to 1-2 tablespoons. At restaurants, order on the side so you can control the amount.