Salads for some reason wear an eternal halo being associated with healthy eating and dieting. When we want to start eating healthier or lose a few kilos, salads are one of the first things we run to in the food court at lunch time. But not all salads are healthy with some filled with unhealthy fats, loads of calories, added salt and sugar and not much else. With the rise in salad outlets and new ingredients these days it’s important to understand what makes a healthy salad and what you need to avoid. Here’s our top 5 salad choosing tips:
1. Choose a Nutrient Filled Base – the more colours the better
Pick a salad with lots of colourful vegetables like a combo of cabbage, beetroot, carrot, corn, lettuce, spinach and capsicum. It’s all about getting variety and the more colourful the better. Each colour brings with it a range of nutrients and antioxidants while being low in energy and high in fibre. This is what will fill you up. Veggies to keep in moderation and to be used in smaller amounts to add some flavour are grilled or roasted veg like eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, artichokes and capsicums. These commonly have a lot of added fat to them and quickly ramp up the calories without you even knowing.
2. Add a Choice of Quality Lean Protein – animal or plant or try a combination
Pulled pork, beef, skinless roasted or poached chicken and salmon are all great options widely available. For a vegetarian option go for beans, tofu (not fried) or boiled eggs. Protein foods spread evenly over your day can help to keep your appetite at bay and help retain muscle mass, important in staying lean. Avoid fatty meats like deli ham, processed luncheon meats, streaky bacon, sausages and deep fried falafels.
3. Include Some Quality Carbs – a grain or starchy veg to fuel your brain
Anything from rice, quinoa, pasta, freekeh, buckwheat or potatoes. A sprinkle through a bowl full of veg for energy to fuel concentration and activity for the rest of the day. With potato, avoid roasted or covered in creamy sauces. Go with a wholegrain mustard vinaigrette. Another option to get some quality carbs for those extra hard or active days is to add a piece of grainy bread.
4. Keep the Dressing Simple and Light – avoid the rich cream, opt for citrus vinaigrette with herbs
Give mayo and creamy rich dressings the flick and choose the fresh tastes of citrus, herbs and vinegar like apple cider, balsamic or even red wine. Add a quality olive oil in small amounts. Some vitamins are fat soluble and are better absorbed by the body when consumed with some fat. All fats contain the same energy per ml so just be mindful of the amount you add. Where possible, ask for a small amount of dressing or even better, separate so you can control how much.
5. Go Light on the Added Crunch – crispy onions, croutons, bacon bits and noodles in small amounts
If there’s a crunch you can almost guarantee it’s been fried. That means extra energy for those looking to cut back and lose a bit of weight. Try a sprinkle of oven roasted nuts and seeds to add that crunch while at the same time adding healthy fats and fibre.
Jenn Madz, Senior Dietitian