Learn about croutons overload, dressing malfunctions, and other common mistakes that can make your salad less nutritious.
The nutritional value of a salad actually depends on its quality rather than its quantity. Although the salad, usually designed as a large bowl of fresh, raw vegetables and leafy greens, has everything it needs to be a great health food, it’s easier than you think to go astray. . Pouring salad dressing, overdoing the carbs, missing the protein, and other common mistakes can turn this nutritious meal into a calorie bomb.
Whether you’re ordering out or making your own salad, here are seven common mistakes to avoid sabotaging it.
Mistake 1: Forgetting protein
When making a meal from a salad, you need more than produce. People view salad as a soft meal that is not very filling or exciting. To remedy this, try to include proteins and fats to make it more satiating. Poultry, fish, avocado, cheese, eggs, nuts or beans are all good options. People who are content with a vegetable salad for lunch to reduce the number of calories seek a snack at 4 p.m. because they are hungry. People are afraid to put nuts or avocados in their salad, thinking they will be too high in calories, but it makes the salad much more enjoyable. These plant-based sources of protein and fat are generally healthier than meats and cheeses, which contain saturated fat.
Mistake 2: Drowning in dressing
You want to find the happy medium with your salad, not too light, but not too heavy either. Salad dressing can be one of the things that destroys your calorie budget, but don’t feel like you have to skip it. A salad without dressing is sad and boring. The dressing gives flavor to the salad. And when your salad tastes good, you’re more likely to eat more healthy vegetables. But don’t let the dressing turn your balanced meal into a 2,000 calorie extravaganza. If you have a dressing you like, combine it with an equal amount of balsamic vinegar or any type of vinegar. This way you almost cut the calories of the salad dressing in half. Plus, adding oil to your salad dressing is proven to have health benefits. Previous research has shown that the oil helps better absorb fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins E and K and carotenoids, plant pigments that have been shown to have health benefits.
Mistake #3: Prepackaged salad dressings
Pre-packaged dressings can be a convenient way to take some of the work out of salad prep, but you should check the ingredients list for bottled dressings to make sure you’re not pouring in things you wouldn’t include in homemade dressing, such as saturated fats, high amounts of sodium, and artificial additives. Many commercial salad dressings can also be sneaky sources of added sugar. Some store-bought dressings use lower quality oils than you would use in your homemade dressings. If you’re making salad dressing at home, you’ll likely use extra-virgin olive oil, which contains antioxidants and health-promoting bioactive substances. In commercial salad dressings, it is not the predominant oil. Olive oil, on the other hand, may help protect against heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, according to research published in October 2019 in Nutrients.
Mistake #4: Going crazy with croutons
Croutons can be high in refined carbohydrates, sodium, and saturated fat. If you feel your salad isn’t complete without these croutons, read the labels. For example, low carb croutons contain 4g of carbs and 77mg of sodium per serving.
There are plenty of other nutritious choices if you want to add a satisfying crunch to your salad. Get creative:
Nuts or seeds
They are sources of healthy fats, protein and fiber. One ounce of almonds contains 3.5g of fiber, 6g of protein and almost 9g of monounsaturated fatty acids.
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) are another good source of fiber and protein. Two tablespoons contain more than 5 g of protein and 3 g of fiber for less than 100 calories
Grilled seaweed snacks contain 1 g of fiber and protein for only 30 calories per serving. Seaweed can be high in sodium, so if you watch your intake, you can read the package to see if these snacks are right for your diet.
Fifth mistake: boring bowls
It’s good to have the ingredients on hand to make a dish you can rely on. It’s part of the planning and it’s very practical. But eating the same salad every day can get boring. In addition, the mixtures are more nutritious. The variety of ingredients allows you to vary the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you consume. In fact, you need to vary foods, especially nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, in order to get different vitamins and minerals in your diet.
You can always keep the same base for your salad and replace a few ingredients each time:
Red or orange peppers or tomatoes for color and flavor.
A certain type of nut
Dried apricots, dried cranberries or white raisins, although it’s best to stick to small portions as these dried fruits can be high in sugar.
Fresh seasonal fruits like peaches, pears or apples
Seasonings also add variety. You’ll probably want to add salt and pepper to your salad, and don’t skimp on fresh herbs like oregano, dill, parsley, and basil. They can make your greens stand out and add a nice, fresh flavor to your salad.
Mistake 6: Using light green vegetables
Iceberg lettuce isn’t exactly the nutritional desert you may have heard. It contains some vitamins and minerals and is low in calories. But it pales in comparison to the nutrients in darker greens like spinach and kale. A cup of spinach provides almost 30 mg of calcium and 0.8 mg of iron, while a cup of iceberg lettuce contains only 10.3 mg of calcium and 0.2 mg of iron.
According to an article in the November 2020 issue of European Academic Research, dark leafy vegetables are packed with health-promoting nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. These vegetables fight diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer, and may improve gut health. A daily dose of green leafy vegetables may also slow cognitive decline, according to the American Academy of Neurology.
So consider replacing some or all of the light lettuce in your salad with darker, richer greens. And if you get tired of green vegetables, leave them out. You can center your salad around things like shredded cabbage or Brussels sprouts, cucumber, watermelon, tomato, citrus fruits, melon, beans, roasted vegetables, or corn. You can take a broader view than green vegetables. It’s always a salad. It makes it a bit more appealing when you have different flavors, textures, and elements to choose from at different times.
Seventh error: not cleaning around your salads
Wash your hands and clean and sanitize your kitchen to reduce the risk of spreading germs to the food you eat (or from it). A study published by Science News in April 2022 found that 25% of participants contaminated their salad with raw chicken. You should also check your packaged goods for staleness, make sure they look fresh, and store salads in the crisper drawer of your fridge.
Should ready-to-eat salads be washed? Unless you run your salads under a fast running stream of water, you might not make much of a difference, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. One study showed that swirling them around in a colander or gently running them through water didn’t kill a lot of bacteria.
The magic formula for a winning salad
Now that you know what mistakes to avoid, here’s how to make your salad a success! Here’s a formula for creating a satisfying, hearty, nutrient-dense salad. Combine the following:
Two portions of vegetables, which can be leafy greens, chopped peppers, cucumbers or tomatoes, or roasted vegetables.
A portion of carbohydrates, such as quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, or dried or fresh fruit.
A portion of protein, such as eggs, beans, legumes, or tofu.
Fats, vegetable fat sources such as avocado, olives or oil-based dressing. Cheese works well in some salads, think beets and goat cheese or a Greek salad with feta.
Crunchy pieces: Nuts, seeds.
Flavorings In addition to dressing, you can add seasonings like Italian, Greek seasoning.
How much protein, fat and crunchy bits should I add? The amount that allows you to feel comfortable and have fun. Think of the source of fat as an accessory. It gives a lot of allure to your salad, but don’t overdo it. And protein is satiating, so how hungry are you? When we make our decisions in this way, we are listening to our body, which helps us eat according to its needs.