Is your salad actually healthy?

You might think that you are really healthy because you eat salads, but you may be wrong. Some salads contain high-fat dressings that can actually do more harm than good, and certain ingredients may not be giving you the vitamins and antioxidants you need. This is why it's important to choose your salads carefully, and know what you're getting into.

Even though it's winter and it might not be prime-veggie season, that doesn't mean that you should write off salads for good. There are plenty healthy and delicious winter salads that can help you reach your weight loss goals all year long. However, it's important that you recognize that not all salads are created equal, and there are some things you should avoid if you want to stay fit.

Not-so-healthy salads

If you're in a restaurant, you might be tempted to order a Cobb salad, which is a staple at many places. However, a traditional Cobb includes bacon, egg, blue cheese and creamy dressing, all of which are packed with fat and calories. Nutritionist Joy Bauer states that a standard restaurant chef's salad contains Swiss cheese, roast beef, eggs and dressing, which can add up to 1,000 calories and nearly 80 grams of fat. Does that sound healthy to you?

 

Eating Well Magazine has some tips for what you should be avoiding at the salad bar if you're trying to watch your calories. With some toppings it's just common sense, like bacon, which everyone knows is filled with fat and sodium. Along with bacon, you have to be careful about the crunchy toppings you choose for your salad. For example, one half of a cup of croutons can contain 100 calories and be packed with fat. Also, tortilla strips and crispy noodles should be avoided.

Most importantly, you have to be careful about dressings. When it comes to healthy or unhealthy salads, dressings care really make or break you. You want to avoid creamy dressings such as ranch, which can have 73 calories and nearly 8 grams of fat per tablespoon, and blue cheese, which is also packed with fat. As a rule, it's better to stick with oil-based dressings than creamy ones. Go for Italian or balsamic vinaigrette for a healthier option, or simply use olive oil, which contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Create a better salad

So now that you know what to avoid, how can you create a healthy salad? First, you'll want to choose the right greens. The Huffington Post has a list of the most and least nutritious greens for your salad to help you make that decision.

First, choose your green based on color. Iceberg lettuce, which is usually light green, has some nutritional value but not a lot. You're better off choosing romaine, arugula or collard greens, which have more vitamins. If you really want to make your salad as healthy as possible, go with kale, which has more calcium than a glass of milk, and is packed with vitamin A.

Then, pile on as many vegetables as you like. Whether it's cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or cabbage, or sulfur-rich veggies such as onions or garlic, you really can't go wrong.

Finally, it's a good idea to have some sort of protein on your salad so you don't get hungry later, but be careful what you choose. For example, always select grilled chicken over fried, or tofu or chickpeas if you're a vegetarian. It's a good idea to stay away from high-fat meats such as ham, which is also packed with sodium. Finally, one hard-boiled egg is also a good choice for a healthy salad.