Think salads are a foolproof lunch plan if you’re on a diet? Not so fast. Just because it’s green does not mean it’s healthy. While salads are a great way to get more essential vitamins and nutrients that most of us don’t eat often enough, it’s easy to load up on ingredients that make a good salad go bad.
Here are seven things you should avoid putting in your salad if you’re trying to lose weight.
Crispy chicken, coconut shrimp, fried tofu, or any other coated protein adds unnecessary calories and, often, a dose of sugar—making your salad not so diet-friendly.
“But you always want to add a lean source of protein to your salad to help satisfy and fill you up,” says New York City-based nutritionist Brigitte Zeitlin, R.D. Instead, opt for grilled chicken, shrimp, salmon, canned tuna (minus the mayo), hard-boiled eggs, steamed tofu, or edamame.
Related: The 20 Highest-Protein Vegetables
“Crunchy noodles are like eating chips,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It. All they add to your salad are calories (around 120 per half cup). Same goes for tortilla strips or wontons.
Instead, toss in half a cup of dried chickpeas for crunch: Part of the superfood bean family, they have protein to fill you up as well as soluble fiber, which may lower cholesterol levels. Zeitlin suggests adding one to two tablespoons almonds, walnuts, pistachios, hemp seeds, or pumpkin seeds. “These guys add heart-healthy fats that help fill you up so that you feel satisfied and don’t look for unnecessary snacks between meals,” she says.
Looking for easy snack options? Check out these 13 delicious ways to spice up a tub of hummus:
Creamy dressings like ranch, Caesar, and honey-Dijon are loaded with calories. Just two tablespoons of blue cheese dressing packs around 160 calories.
Atlanta-based nutritionist Marisa Moore, R.D., recommends getting flavor from vinegars like balsamic or champagne plus a drizzle of heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil. Or, you can whip up a healthier creamy dressing at home using ripe avocado or tahini to get the same effect. (For healthy recipes that will taste delicious, check out the Metashred Diet from Men’s Health. It’s full of meal ideas that will help you burn fat while maintaining lean muscle.)
Fat-free dressings are actually higher in salt and sugar than the real stuff. Two tablespoons of fat-free Ranch, for example, has between 270 to 380 milligrams (mg) of sodium and two to three grams (g) of sugar. The first ingredients of many brands are corn syrup and sugar.
Plus, research has found that your body needs healthy fats to absorb some essential nutrients, like lycopene and vitamin A, in vegetables. Instead, opt for olive oil blended with balsamic or apple vinegar or fresh-squeezed lemon juice.
Portion control is key here. “Too much of any dressing can be the biggest culprit in making a good salad go bad, easily adding an extra 200 to 300 calories to the bowl,” says Zeitlin. Stick to one to two tablespoons total.
While croutons bump up a salad’s texture and flavor, a small handful can add nearly 100 calories without much nutritional benefit, says Moore. She recommends adding seasoned walnuts for the same effect (disclosure: Moore has worked with California Walnuts).
For a flavor boost, toss them in dried Italian herbs, herbs de Provence, or any other blend that works well with the other flavors in your salad.
Dried cranberries, apricots, and raisins are loaded with around 22 g of sugar (almost as much as a Butterfinger bar!) and 100 calories in one-quarter cup—minus the filling fiber of fresh fruit.
Instead, add one serving of fresh seasonal fruit, like half a cup of sliced grapes or clementines, for flavor and antioxidants. Or snack on half a cup of fresh berries after your meal, suggests Zeitlin.
Bacon bits are mostly made with soybean flour and sunflower or canola oil and pack 30 calories in just one tablespoon—and who uses just one tablespoon? They don’t add anything nutritionally to your salad, so instead, Moore recommends adding one to two tablespoons of unsalted smoked nuts for similar flavor plus a dose of healthy fats and fiber.
The article 7 Things You Should Never Put In a Salad If You’re Trying to Lose Weightoriginally appeared on Women’s Health.
Source: Men’s Health