If I hear one more person on a “diet” tell me they are eating salads, I’m going to scream! Mostly because these same people are not losing weight (and are often actually putting it on,) are miserable and hungry all the time, but also because I thought most people knew better than to fall for the old “salads are diet food” myth.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about “getting your greens.” However, most people that eat salads are not focusing on the greens but all the stuff that goes on the salad. And let’s face it, the yummy stuff that we all love on salads is what’s getting us into trouble.
I was recently reviewing one of my clients diet with her during her personal training session as she was frustrated with her inability to lose weight. She said, “I’m eating salads every night, I don’t know why I’m not losing!” I proceeded to ask her to tell me what she puts on her salads all the while adding up the calories on my iPhone App, myfitnesspal.com. While her salad had many healthy items on it, at the end of the day, the total calories were well over 800! No wonder she wasn’t losing weight.
Consider: A chicken Caesar salad at Chili’s (loaded with salad dressing, croutons, cheese, and chicken) will set you back 1,010 calories and 76 grams of fat. You could eat a good portion of steak and two Healthy sides for well under that calorie count. I say, “where’s the beef!” I mean, you’ll be consuming way more nutrients, fewer calories and less fat. And I’m sure you are going to enjoy chewing on that steak much more than that bowl of “rabbit food.”
It’s the fixings that make the difference when it comes to salad calories. If you’re going to pile on the croutons, creamy dressing, cheese, bacon, avocado, mayonnaise-rich prepared salads (like coleslaw), meat, nuts, fried chicken strips, and wonton strips, you might as well order a double bacon cheeseburger and fries.
I’m sure if most people were given the choice, they would choose a nice piece of meat over a salad any day of the week. And trust me, those people are likely losing more weight than the salad eaters. Stick with protein and put your greens on the side for a diet friendly meal that will make you lean and mean.
If you are a lover of salads, at least change those salads into the diet friendly meals that they should be. For a healthy salad, start with a variety of colorful veggies, fruits, beans, and mixed greens. When possible, opt for dark, leafy greens like arugula, spinach, and fresh herbs. (The darker the leaf, the more nutritional goodness it has.) Then, pile on grape tomatoes, shredded carrots, cabbage, broccoli, jicama, scallions, mushrooms, red bell peppers, roasted vegetables, or your other favorite vegetables.For an entree salad, add lean protein like grilled chicken, shrimp, or hard-cooked egg. Top off your salad with a small amount of avocado or chopped nuts to add some healthy fat.
The biggest reason why salads go bad is because people pile on salad dressing that is full of fat and calories. Why ruin your beautiful salad now? There are several super healthy and low calorie dressing options on the market. Read labels and measure out your dressing so you don’t go overboard. I won’t buy any dressing with more than 35 calories per serving.For a lower-calorie salad, dress with a tablespoon or two of light vinaigrette or salsa, or a flavorful vinegar (like balsamic) along with a little heart-healthy olive oil.
So while I’m not a huge salad eater, when I do eat a salad, I do it right. In fact, I had one for dinner tonight using a yummy kale and radicchio blend topped with chicken breast, feta, sunflower seeds and low cal dressing, right on my calories, but most importantly packed with lean protein. If you love salads, go for it, just make sure you are careful and stick to the right toppings. Otherwise, go for the beef!