There is nothing more well-known as a “health food” than a salad. With a base of nutrient-rich greens, tons of veggies and good-for-you toppings, a salad can deliver major nutrients while still being low calorie. However, as with anything, a salad can quickly turn from healthy to not-so-healthy depending on what you load it with. Now, of course, we love salads and are always going to recommend including salads in your diet, however, order a salad from a restaurant and you may just find yourself eating more calories than a burger and fries (provided the calories in a salad are typically more quality than those in a burger). A salad bar at the work cafeteria, restaurant or local market typically offers a great choice of veggies and fruits, but also is surrounded by fried-toppings, sugar-coated nuts, and mayo-based pastas. Some toppings and dressings can put your salad creation up to over 1,000 calories and over 50 grams of fat. So, while our love for salads is strong, we want to equip you with the know-how to make sure your salads are packing a nutrient-punch. Below, we’ve listed the 7 most common mistakes we see people making when it comes to making their own salads or ordering them and how you can build a better salad to make sure this health food is meeting your needs.
7 Most Common Salad Mistakes
Mistake #1: Iceburg Lettuce
Not only does iceburg flavor lack flavor, but it also lacks nutrients. It has some, but if you’re looking to really get a nutrient-boost, there are many better options.
Instead: Pick a dark, leafy green instead to get much more bang for your buck! We love spinach, arugula and kale but there are plenty of other options as well!
Mistake #2: Mayo-Based Salads
If you’re a salad bar cafeteria goer, chances are you’ve seen the pre-made mayo-based and pasta salads on rotation. Now while “salad” is in the name, they’re really not salads at all. These items can often wreak havoc on your calorie count and your healthy diet.
Instead: Choose to make your own salad with leafy greens instead. You’ll be able to control all of the ingredients and know exactly what you’re getting.
Mistake #3: High-Calorie Toppings
Overindulging in salad toppings can load up the calories. Salad toppings such as croutons, wonton strips and chow mein noodles have limited health benefits, are often loaded with preservatives, contain artificial flavors and colors and are high in calories.
Instead: If you’re looking for something crunchy on top, choose things like nutritious seeds or nuts. If you’re really focusing on low-calorie, just be sure to go a little light on these too.
Mistake #4: Bland Salads
You know when you’ve had a weekend where you’ve said “yes” to a few more unhealthy things than maybe you should have… we’ve all been there. So Monday comes along and you tell yourself “Okay, I’m going to make a salad and start eating healthier.” So you cut up some lettuce, carrots and celery, drizzle on some olive oil and call it good. Well, maybe that does it for you, but if you’re like us, this only leads to internally crying over your lunch break feeling like a bunny and reaching for a donut at 2pm because you’re starving. Salads shouldn’t be miserable and often when they don’t have enough protein or healthy fat to satiate, it leads to overeating later. Don’t punish yourself with a bland, unbalanced salad.
Instead: Make sure your salads are colorful, flavorful and fill you up! Particularly, make sure you add protein with things like chicken, salmon, eggs, tofu, nuts and more. And don’t forget about healthy fats like avocados, olive oil and seeds.
Mistake #5: Excluding Veggies
Another mistake people make is piling on everything but veggies. What you pile on top of the lettuce really determines the health of your salad. Contrastingly to mistake #3, skipping the veggies altogether does not give you the nutrients you’re looking for.
Instead: Add vegetables that you love to your salads. If you hate celery, skip it, but make sure you add some other favorites like peppers, artichokes, tomatoes and so many more!
Mistake #6: Picking the Wrong Dressing
Dressings like ranch, blue cheese, thousand island and french have anywhere from 16 to 20 grams of fat per serving!
Instead: Opt for a balsamic vinegar or touch of olive oil. Or is this doesn’t do it for you, choosing a vinaigrette is always going to be a healthier choice than the creamy ones. We even like using salsa or guacamole as dressing!
Mistake #7: Not switching up with the seasons
Not adapting your salads to the change in seasons. Most people are more apt to eating a salad in the summer versus the winter. When the sun’s out, you’re happy to eat something cold and lighter. But in the winter, typically your body is craving comfort foods that are warm and filling. Trying to translate your summer salad to winter can often lead to ditching it altogether.
Instead: Swap in seasonal ingredients like sweet potatoes, Brussels Sprouts and some more filling additions like quinoa. We have tons of winter salad ideas so make sure you check them out!