Eating Healthy

Salad Sabotage: 5 Fixins’ That Can Ambush Your Waistline

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By Bethany Thayer, MS, RDN

Foregoing those fries in favor of a salad may seem like the responsible food choice, but it could actually be worse calorie-wise if you’re not careful. Yes, before you pat yourself on the back for self-control, you should examine the contents of your salad to ensure that what you’re adding in isn’t ambushing your waistline.

In fact, in some instances, salads can pack a greater calorie punch than a cheeseburger. So how do you know what to leave off of your leaves? Here’s a breakdown of what not to include on your next salad:

  • Anything fried. For obvious reasons, tossing in food battered and fried in oil is bad for your waistline – not to mention your cholesterol. But it doesn’t just mean add-ins like fried chicken. Croutons can be culprits, too. So skip the fried proteins in favor of grilled.
  • Processed meats. Sorry, bacon bit lovers. It may be delicious, but in addition to the calories it adds, the sodium and nitrates in bacon make it a bad choice for your salad. Too much salt can lead to unhealthy blood pressure levels, and nitrates have been linked to cancer. Additionally, processed meats like salami and ham also pack a salt-and-nitrate-filled punch, so you’ll want to skip those, too. Opt for lean protein wherever possible, and if it’s a stronger taste that you crave, try squeezing a little lemon on your salad.
  • Calorie-dense foods. From cheese to nuts to avocados and dried fruit, going overboard on these calorie-filled foods can be tempting. But here’s a reason not to: the calories add up quickly! An ounce of cheese has about 100 calories, as does just two tablespoons of nuts. So go easy on the extras, or just choose one – not all – if you just can’t modify the portion size.
  • Edible bowls. Taco salads are delicious – but skip that fried, salted tortilla bowl. The calories in the bowl could be more than in a whole cheeseburger. Choose an inedible container instead of a taco shell every time.
  • Dressing. And finally, we’ve arrived at everyone’s favorite place to make calorie-caving choices. Sure, you want your salad to taste great – especially if you’ve just eschewed all the other no-no items listed here. But why spoil it when you’re in the home stretch? Put down the creamy dressing and back away slowly. Dressings, like Russian, Caesar, Thousand Island and Ranch, may taste good, but the calorie and fat content they contain aren’t doing you any favors when you step on the scale. Even oil and vinegar-based dressings add about 70 calories per tablespoon. Try adding a sprinkle of lemon or lime onto your salad, instead. Talk about punching up the flavor! Or you can opt for red wine, balsamic or apple cider vinegar.

Whatever you do, just remember the cardinal rule of all nutrition and dietary advice: moderation is key. Follow these guidelines, and your salad will be working in your favor in no time.

For more advice on eating healthier today and every day, check out the EatWell section of henryfordlivewell.com.

Also, learn more about Henry Ford’s 5-2-1-0 family wellness program and download our 5-2-1-0 Kids! app — a fun way for kids to learn the importance of healthy habits.