As a general rule, you really can’t go wrong eating leafy greens. They’re low in calories, loaded with nutrients, and most of us don’t get enough of them in our diets. The problem is they don’t taste super great on their own, so we wind up adding all kinds of unhealthy ingredients just to make salads palatable. Here are a few traps to avoid.
Bacon bits (duh)
Although bacon may be a no-brainer when it comes to toppings to avoid in your salad, they warrant mention because of how sneaky they are about ruining your salad. If you can limit yourself to only a single teaspoon (and who can, really?), you’re adding about 35 calories to your meal. But the real culprit here is the 125 mg of sodium as well as the fats that come along with it. Not only does your waistline pay the price, your heart does, too. And let’s not forget we all learned that processed meats like bacon were found to cause cancer.
Croutons, bread by another name
If it’s loads of refined carbs and empty calories you seek, look no further than croutons. However, if you’re eating a salad for lunch, you’re probably trying to watch both of those things very carefully. Many croutons can also contain high levels of sodium. At about 60 calories per dozen, you’re better off eating whole wheat bread that at least contains fiber to help you digest and feel fuller.
Thick, creamy dressings
While dressings like ranch, blue cheese, creamy Italian, and Caesar can turn your bowl of leafy greens into a savory delight, they’re one of the worst additions to an otherwise healthy salad. Many can add around 200 calories per serving, with 180 of those coming from fat. And that’s if you only have one serving. Most people tend to add two or three servings to their salad. It’s almost always better to opt for a light vinaigrette instead… and remember to go easy on it!
Cheeses, even the fancy sounding kinds
Like bacon, cheese is one of those foods we instantly recognize as unhealthy, yet somehow magically forget when we add it to a salad. For example, one cup of crumbled feta cheese is approximately 396 calories, and it has fewer calories than cheeses like parmesan and cheddar. Adding cheese could potentially cause your salad to have more calories than a Big Mac, which clocks in at 563.
“Crispy” chicken is a red flag
Sure, adding protein in general is going to add more calories to your salad than the greens and vegetables, but we all need protein and there are plenty of healthy ways to get it. Unfortunately, the term “crispy” is generally code for fried. When you order a crispy chicken Caesar salad, you’re essentially ordering a salad with chicken fingers in it. It kind of defeats the purpose. Stick with grilled chicken instead.
The portion itself
The thing about nutrition and healthy eating is nothing is truly horrible for you in the right amounts. As a general rule, the worse a food is for you, the less you should eat. You’re not going to die if you eat a piece of bacon, but if you’re having it with your breakfast all the time (or sprinkling it on your salad for lunch), you’re doing your body a disservice. Try to stick to salads that are a reasonable portion. That way it’s easier to judge how much you’re putting in your body. If you need double the dressing to fork it down, then you’re doubling those calories, too.