8 Common Mistakes When Preparing Salads
What started out as a post to give helpful tips on choosing/making healthy salad dressings, turned into a blog post about how to create a perfect salad and avoid unhealthy traps! Creating a healthy balanced salad does not have to be stressful or break the bank, but being aware of and avoiding the following common mistakes will help to give us the proper nourishment that salads were designed to provide. Remember, not all salads are created equal!
Mistake #1: Sticking with the usual base (switch up your greens!)
If you have visited your local farmers market this year, you will notice there are a ton of greens available outside of the customary arugula, spinach, kale, and romaine. Search for seasonal leafy greens for your salad base, like mache′, mesclun, dandelion greens, microgreens, baby kale, chicory, and escarole. Adding a variety of greens will not only give you multiple health benifits, but will also add flavor and texture to your salad! And unless you’re making a wedge salad (or using for lettuce wraps), PLEASE refrain from buying the basketball sized iceberg heads, they add minimal nutritional value!
Mistake #2: Cravings!
Listen to your body. Often we eat based off of what we are craving without thinking about what we are ACTUALLY craving. Next time you find yourself craving Mexican food, choose fresh veggies like cucumbers, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Add black beans or grilled chicken for protein and top with a little bit of low-fat mozzarella cheese or a few avocado chunks, and drizzle with lemon juice. Take a minute after you’ve finished and ask yourself “Am I still craving this?” Listen to your body, it will thank you!
Mistake #3: Adding a loaf a bread to your salad!
That added crunch factor is what encourages non-salad lovers to start eating their greens, am I right? But adding crunchy toppings like store-bought croutons, fried wontons, or crispy sesame sticks can put a damper on your healthy lunch intentions. Whether you’re eating out or making a salad at home, try some healthy crunchy options like dried soy nuts or make your own croutons from multigrain bread. Making sure you’re adding healthy fats (in moderation) to every meal is also, so topping your salad with sliced almonds or pepitas will deliver that salty crunch you’re craving!
Mistake #4: Piling on too many nuts and fruit!
Many of us enjoy some sweetness on our salads, but adding dried fruit and handfuls of nuts can quickly add up on the calorie board! You don’t have to completely throw out all dried fruit when building a salad, but if you do not measure it, the sugar will add up (16 grams of per ounce!). Nuts are no exception; adding walnuts or almonds without paying attention to portions (14-21 grams of fat per ounce) can throw your daily fat recommendations over the edge. In addition to measuring out one serving of dried fruit, try chopping your nuts so you use less and still benefit from their texture with every bite. Or even better, throw the dried fruit in the trash and add a punch of sweetness by roasting up some butternut squash cubes drizzled with a tablespoon of maple syrup, you won’t be disappointed!
Mistake #5: Forgetting the protein!
No salad (or meal) is complete without a source of protein. Leaving this vital macronutrient out of your salad will leave you less satisfied and sluggish the rest of the day. Pro tip: on the weekend, grill chicken breasts in bulk, as well as portobello mushrooms and shrimp to throw on your greens during the week! If you don’t have time to prepare for your week, keep tuna in your cupboard or hard boiled eggs for a quick protein-filled option! To all those vegetarians out there, make sure you’re adding chickpeas or lentils for a hefty source of plant-based protein with the added bonus of fiber!
Mistake #6: Not enough raw veggies!
Prep your salad like a cave(wo)man would! Load up on the basics like tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, and raw broccoli. These are examples of non-starchy, low calorie vegetables that will help you consume less and fill you up!
Mistake #7: Choosing the wrong dressing!
I get it, its convenient, cheap, and pleasing to the kids. However, if you’re using store bought dressings or chain restaurant dressings, you could be adding more fat and calories than a Big Mac (550 calories, 10g saturated fat, 1000mg sodium!). By asking for dressing on the side and adding in a small amount at a time, you will be avoiding the added fat, sugar, and sodium. Instead of buying fat-free dressings (often higher in sugar and carbs to make up for the lack of fat), try a “Salad Spritzer” and fill it with olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice. You could also choose to add a healthy all white meat chicken salad on top (made with avocado-based mayo) and ditch the dressing all together!
Mistake #8: Overdoing the cheese!
Cheese is tricky. It’s not a bad choice for added flavor and it is a good source of calcium and contains protein (feta: 140mg of calcium, 4g protein per oz.) but the wrong type/portion can easily wreck your salad. One trick to having your cheese and eating it too is to use grated varieties like parmesan. Similar to the chopping of nuts tactic, this will distribute the cheese throughout the salad so you can enjoy it longer. If you’re someone who loves flavor, choose feta or another low fat cheese with strong flavor. This not only keeps you satisfied, but is another way of decreasing the amount you use.
Salads are great alternatives to burger and fries, just be aware of the added calories you mix into your leafy greens! Keep in mind that it IS possible to make an unhealthy salad, and to be mindful when choosing your dressing. Hopefully these tips are helpful and will act as a guide the next time you are putting together a nutritious salad! Happy eats:)