Some takeout or restaurant salads can contain more than 1,000 calories. Yes, really!
Read on to see some salad calorie swaps and pile your plate high with healthy choices.
Build a healthy salad base
Building a better salad starts with the foundation: the greens. Greens are low in calories and deliver high doses of vitamins. The darker the leaves are, the more vitamins and minerals they have. Try mixing a cup of spinach with a cup of romaine or have two cups of a spring mix to help sneak some more vitamins and minerals into your diet.
When choosing your vegetables, make your salad as colorful as possible.
Tip 1. Try crackers instead of croutons
High calorie: whole-wheat croutons (80 calories for 8).
Whole-wheat equals healthy, right? Not when it’s been brushed with butter before being toasted.
Lower calorie: crumbled saltines (25 calories for 2).
Tip 2. Change up your chicken
Stick with lean proteins (chicken, ham, turkey, or fish) and try to get them as close to their natural state as possible for the greatest nutritional value.
High calorie: crispy chicken (380 calories for 4.5 oz).
“Crispy” is code for “fried.” Also, beware the term “panko-crusted”; it’s just a fancy way of saying the chicken has been breaded.
Lower calorie: grilled chicken (213 calories for 4.5 oz).
Tip 3. Choose cheese wisely
Aim for low-fat cheese and try to pick shredded—that way you’re getting a greater volume out of a single portion instead of having it in chunks.
High calorie: blue cheese (100 calories per oz).
Stilton, roquefort, and gorgonzola are good sources of calcium and protein, but they’re also high in calories—not to mention saturated fat.
Lower calorie: feta cheese (75 calories per oz) or goat cheese (50 calories per oz).
Tip 4. Choose the right dressing
Many times, a healthy salad turns into a not-so-healthy one because of the salad dressing. People often tend to use too much, so stick with the recommended serving size of two tablespoons. Watch out for low-fat dressings—they may still be high in calories and have more fat than you think.
High calorie: vinaigrette (260 calories for 1/4 cup).
A ladleful packs almost as many salad calories as a cup of spaghetti topped with marinara sauce!
Lower calorie: use a tablespoon (65 calories) or dunk your fork in a side and use just what you need.