The Anatomy of a Healthy Salad

How many times have you been in a restaurant with a friend and heard her  say, "Oh, I'll just have a salad," with a satisfied look on her face?  When looking for a healthy option,  it's not uncommon for people to immediately rely on salad as their  go-to meal. Often associated with being low in calories and high in  nutrients, salads seem to make sense. The truth is, sometimes opting for  a salad can be one of your worst dieting downfalls. On the other hand,  salads don't have to equate to a wider waistline. Research shows people  who eat salads are more likely to have higher levels of key nutrients  that prevent cancer and heart disease, and may consume 12 percent less  calories throughout the meal. It's all about preparing them correctly  and knowing what to add in and what to take out. Below are my five top  tips on how to slim down your salad, without sacrificing flavor or  nutrition. Throw Some Fat Into the Mix Salads can fall on complete opposite ends of the spectrum if you're not careful. Eating a bowl full of green leaves  and raw veggies with a splash of lemon juice or vinegar is one of the  biggest mistakes people make when trying to lose weight. Sure, it's low  in calories, but in order for your body to effectively use the abundant  nutrients in the vegetables, some type of fat needs to be added. Choose  an unsaturated one, and remember, a little goes a long way. Your body  only requires a small amount of fat in a meal to absorb the nutrients.  Consider using two to three thin slices of avocado to not only add in  heart-healthy fats, but also potassium, fiber, and vitamin E. At 50  calories, you can't go wrong! Remember, It's a Salad, Not a Sandwich Often,  devoted salad eaters choose to add in items like bacon, chicken, or  steak to make their salads more fulfilling. While it may do just that,  it can potentially add too many calories. If you must, pick one meat or  poultry option, but make sure to skip the cheese to avoid calorie  overload. Another idea is to garnish your greens with two egg whites  instead. This adds approximately 8 grams of protein for less than 50  calories. Or choose a legume, such as navy or kidney beans, to pack in  protein as well as fiber. An optimal serving for navy beans is ¼ cup,  which contains about 4 grams of both protein and fiber for 65 calories.  Just because your sandwich comes with bread doesn't mean your salad has  to. Skip the breadsticks or pita typically offered on the side. They only add empty calories. Swap Croutons for Crunchy Snack Mix Ever  notice that most croutons don't even crunch when you bite into them?  That's because they're drenched in either oil or butter to make up for  their lack of flavor and freshness. Regardless, a small serving of  croutons can contain anywhere from 50 to 90 calories without adding much  satisfaction. Instead, sprinkle your salad with Sheffa Zesty Snack Mix.  Made with ground chickpeas, the noodles are a great source of vegetable  protein that fall low on the glycemic index, which allows for a slower  release of sugar in the bloodstream, stabilizing appetite. One serving  will give your salad added crunch, taste, fiber, and protein to keep you  satiated for a longer period of time. Or crumble a high-fiber cracker  like GG Scandinavian Bran Crispbreads on top for some crunchy flavor. The Darker the Better When  it comes to being savvy about your salad, use your eyes! Swap pale  greens such as iceberg lettuce for leaves like kale, arugula, and  romaine lettuce. Dark green leafy vegetables rank high on the  nutritional scale, and are packed with fiber, phytochemicals,  antioxidants, and vitamins. Most people think of dairy foods as the  ultimate way to ensure enough calcium in their diet.  But leafy veggies such as mustard greens, kale, and bok choy all  contain considerable amounts of this bone-building nutrient for fewer  calories than dairy products. For example, adding 1 cup of kale to your  mix can amp up your salad by providing well over 100 percent of your  daily value for nutrients such as vitamins A, C, and K. Opt for Homemade Dressings Have  you ever looked at how many ingredients are in most store-bought salad  dressings? And can you even pronounce half of them? Homemade salad  dressings are pretty simple. Start with an oil base (I prefer olive  oil), which acts as the emulsifier. Then, add in your favorite type of  vinegar. Although balsamic is popular, it's fun to play around with  other flavors such as pear, raspberry, or even pomegranate! Next, chop  up some fresh herbs, which add flavor but not sodium.  The best varieties for salad include basil, thyme, marjoram, and  chives. Fresh is always best, but dried herbs can suffice in a pinch.  Ground pepper is also a must. Lastly, add in a pinch of sea salt to  taste. You can also experiment by adding different types of mustard to  provide another depth of flavor. Varieties like Dijon, whole-grain, or  sweet mustards all pack in flavor without tons of calories.
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