Dark greens, homemade dressing, and just a little bit of fat… How to ensure your salad really IS a healthy option



20:33 GMT, 19 July 2012

The salad is a menu go-to for anyone watching their weight. But the seemingly-healthy dish can also function as a platform for high-fat, high-calorie foods that can spell disaster for dieters.

Indeed, ever-tempting variations can come loaded with cheese, croutons and creamy dressings, and could be just as damaging to your waistline as a burger and fries.

But, one expert reveals, that doesn't have to be the case. Dietician Heather Bauer says just a few simple ingredient trades could make all the difference.


Cutting calories: Just a few simple ingredient trades will ensure your salad really is healthy

Cutting calories: Just a few simple ingredient trades will ensure your salad really is healthy

She writes in U.S. News and World Report: 'Often associated with being low in
calories and high in nutrients, salads seem to make sense. The truth is,
sometimes opting for a salad can be one of your worst dieting

Ms Bauer, author of The Wall Street Diet and Bread is the Devil, says it is important to know what to keep in and what to take out. And the trades are not always what one might expect them to be.

Instead of cutting out fat altogether,
for example, she says a small amount is essential for helping your body
make the most of nutrients consumed in the salad leaves.

People who order a salad will consume, on average, 12per cent fewer calories during the meal

'Consider using two to three thin slices
of avocado to not only add in heart-healthy fats, but also potassium,
fiber, and vitamin E,' she advises.

As for the leaves themselves, Ms
Bauer's says the darker the better. So go for spinach, kale and arugula
over romaine and iceberg lettuce.

'Dark green leafy
vegetables rank high on the nutritional scale, and are packed with
fiber, phytochemicals, antioxidants, and vitamins,' she explains, adding
that dark leaves are also extremely high in calcium and essential vitamins A, C, and K.

Opt for dark green leaves over paler lettucesTrade croutons for broken-up crispbreadsSkip the cheese and limit protein to one lean source like grilled chicken, beans or egg whitesAdd a little 'healthy' fat in the form of nuts or a few slices of avocadoStick to homemade dressings to cut back on sodium and sugarAvoid side-servings of bread and breadsticks altogether

The real calories can rack up when ingredients like cheese and croutons are added, though. So, the dietician advises, limit yourself to just one source of protein, and go for lean meat over fatty cheese.

Better still, she suggests choosing egg whites or legumes like kidney beans as a protein option instead, as both are very low in calories.

As for oil-drenched croutons, cut them out altogether and use seed-based snack mixes and broken-up crispbreads to add crunch instead. Ms Bauer says they are lower-glycaemic too, so wil keep you feeling full for longer.

Dressing is another dietary danger. Store-bought versions can be loaded with sodium and sugar, while homemade versions are not only healthier, but taste way better too.

Ms Bauer recommends experimenting with fresh herbs and getting creative with different combinations of oils and vinegars.

She adds: 'You can also experiment by adding different types of mustard… Varieties like Dijon, whole-grain, or sweet mustards all pack in flavor without tons of calories.'