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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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What to Choose and What to Avoid on Your Salad

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salad barSalad--the no brainer diet food, right?  Not so fast!  While salads can be a great choice at times, it’s way to easy to load up a salad with “fun stuff” that’s not necessarily the most weight friendly. Some salads’ calorie levels can even exceed entrees you wouldn’t even think (ie: bacon double cheeseburger). If you are trying to avoid some of the more unhealthy options at the salad, try to minimize the amount of the following toppings you add to your salad and opt for the more fresh and low calorie options salad bars have to offer.

  • Croutons: Opt for whole grain crackers or a whole wheat roll instead which will have more fiber and nutrients than croutons.
  • Bacon Bits: They can sneak in fat and calories to their salads. Instead opt for lean grilled chicken or fish.
  • Shredded Cheese: Many people will not pay attention to the amount of cheese they are putting on their salad especially if it is a buffet. If it is a salad that is being served from the kitchen, many people ask for extra cheese wanting to get what they pay for. Instead opt for no cheese or just a small amount of feta which will give you just as much flavor without as many calories.
  • Candied Nuts: Often high calorie and full of sugar. Opt for sliced almonds or walnuts to get the benefits of the heart healthy fats that nuts contain.
  • Creamy dressings: Opt for light or fat free dressings or ask for it on the side when it comes to choosing your salad dressing. This way you can control exactly how much you are putting on your salad. Even if you make the best salad, topping it with a creamy, high fat dressing can ruin all of your efforts.
  • Dried Fruits: Unlike real fruits, some dried fruits have added sugar and can pack on calories easily. Instead opt for fresh fruit to top your salad.
  • Mayo based salads: Many salad bars are not just lettuce and veggies. They also often include chicken salad, egg salad, tuna salad, pasta salad, or some kind of vegetable mixture that often are made and covered with mayonnaise.  Just because it’s included on a salad bar doesn’t mean it’s healthy!  Instead opt for a small amount of hummus or a pasta salad made with vinaigrette.
  • Iceberg lettuce: There is little nutritional value in iceberg lettuce. Instead opt for mixed greens or spinach which will give you more bang for your buck.

Salads can still be an excellent way to get your veggies!  With a few careful choices you’ll build a very nutritious salad that will satisfied and energize you.

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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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