A lot of times we associate the word “salad” with healthy and weight loss, but is it really? That completely depends on what all you put in your salad and what type and how much dressing you use.
Let’s start with the basics: what type of lettuce are you using? In general, iceberg lettuce is the least healthy. It contains a very minimal amount of vitamins and fiber yielding very little nutritional support. Oppositely, better options for lettuce or greens would be spinach, romaine, or kale which all contain higher fiber and nutrients than iceberg lettuce.
Secondly, what veggies are you adding to it? Usually vegetables are relatively safe to pile onto a salad. Red bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms, and onions are all fair game. It’s usually the peas or the corn that you want to keep more moderated as those tend to be starchier carbs.
Are you adding protein to it? Chicken, salmon, shrimp, turkey, and eggs are all great sources of lean protein that are great to add to a salad; of course we would prefer the meat to be grilled though versus fried. Adding protein to your salad is vital because that is what’s going to fuel your body, give you more energy, and help you stay fuller for longer.
What type of dressing are you using and how much? Of course we all know that although ranch dressing is a favorite to most, it is one of the unhealthiest dressings you can use because of the high fat content. Others that would fall into this same category include: creamy caesar, creamy italian, and bleu cheese. Usually if it’s creamy, it’s a no-go. From a high sugar standpoint, fat-free honey dijon is one that you would want to steer away from also.
So what about this controversy of using low-fat versus fat-free salad dressing? Research has demonstrated that your body needs some fat ailment in order to properly absorb some of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in the salad. Furthermore, fat-free salad dressings are typically higher in sodium which can cause fluid retention and an increase in blood pressure over time. So possibly skip the fat-free, and just go with a low-fat or light dressing choice.
So what are some of the healthier dressings that won’t hinder my weight loss plan? Wish-Bone Salad Spritzer in Italian Vinaigrette, Wish-Bone Light Italian, Annie's Balsamic Vinaigrette, Newman's Own Low-Fat Sesame Ginger Dressing, or you could go with squeezing a lemon or lime over top your salad. Of course from the lemon or lime you will not get that needed fat content, so I would encourage to include a source of healthy fat into your salad so that your body can properly absorb the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients from the salad. And remember too, it’s not just about what type of dressing you use, but it’s important to keep to the recommended serving size as well. For this reason, always ask for your dressing on the side when ordering a salad out.
Other things to keep an eye out for or to keep in moderation on your salad include cheese, croutons, bacon bits, wantons, glazed nuts, and craisins.
On a final note, don’t eat salad every day. For most of us that would get boring real quick, but additionally, your body actually functions best when you give it various forms of nutrition versus having the same meal every single day.
Take home points: Choose dark leafy greens for the base (not iceberg lettuce), pile on a rainbow of vegetables, add lean protein, and choose a small amount of a light or low-fat dressing on the side.