‘Tis the season of salad eating. As the weather warms, many health-conscious diners think their go-to food should be a salad. But these well-meaning dieters and self-described “health nuts” can’t understand why they don’t lose weight by eating salads or why a salad is not always a “health food.”
A salad is simply a conglomeration of different foods on one plate. Those foods don’t always add up to the picture of great nutrition or to a low calorie meal (think Ambrosia or potato salad!) And there are other hidden risks you take when ordering or preparing a salad. That’s why I’ve prepared this short list of Dangerous Salads:
#1 The Fatty Salad – I’ve had friends and clients come to me tearing their hair out not understanding why they can’t lose weight when they claim “all I eat is salads!” When I ask about what’s in their salad, the truth comes out. A salad may start with a foundation of leafy greens, but additions such as cheese, nuts, ranch dressing, hard boiled eggs, steak and – worse yet – croutons can take a nutrient dense 500-600 calorie meal soaring to a fat- and carb-laden 1,200 calorie bomb. It’s good to add an ounce or two of lean protein or nuts to your salad, but avoid fattier cheese and the empty calories of bread and dried noodles, and lightly dress your salads with natural options like a homemade lemon vinaigrette.
#2 The Unsatisfying Salad – On the other hand, if your salad is full of tasteless iceberg lettuce, old tomatoes and dry carrot shavings, chances are that you will finish your meal feeling emotionally – and physically — unsatisfied. This can lead to loading up on dessert, overeating at the next meal or snacking on other less healthy foods later. So make sure you include good quality ingredients and things that you actually like eating in your salad like seared tuna, toasted chick peas, sunflower seeds, olives (just watch the quantities – see above.)
# 3 The Deprivation Salad – You’re out with friends and they’re ordering juicy burgers, pizza or tacos but you know you have to be “good” so you order a salad when what you really want is a sandwich or fish and chips. No matter how good the salad is, if you deny yourself your cravings chances are they’ll come back with a vengeance and you might wind up gorging on cheese doodles later. So go ahead and order a sandwich – just make it a sensible one like a whole grain Panini loaded up grilled mushrooms and peppers, or get your fish and chips fix by diving into a beautiful piece of salmon with a few baked sweet potato fries on the side. Now who’s jealous?
#4 The Magic Salad – I know some folks who believe that eating a salad has the power to erase the calories of all other foods that come after. Just because you start a meal with your salad, doesn’t mean that completing it with fried chicken and cheesecake won’t count – it does. Sure, a salad at the beginning of a meal is a good way to quell your appetite and ensure you get your fiber, but that “angelic” move, won’t make up for the sins to come.
#5 The Lethal Salad – No joke, one of the biggest culprits of food-borne illness is the salad. In the past few years, serious outbreaks of e-coli have been linked to improperly handled spinach. Celery too (because of its fibrous nature) can soak up microscopic bacteria that can make you sick. And anything mixed with mayonnaise can go bad rather quickly in the summer heat. So ditch the mayo, try to opt for organic ingredients and be sure that your greens are thoroughly washed, fruit is peeled, and veggies are blanched (for good measure.)
Now go out and enjoy salad season wisely!