Mitzi Dulan – America's Nutrition Expert
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5 Healthy Salad Swaps
by Mitzi Dulan, RD, America’s Nutrition Expert®
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Feb
18
2010

Salads have gotten a bad reputation over the years as being a “dieter’s only” food, but they’re an extremely flexible meal option that you can add almost anything to!  However, a lot of commercially prepared salads have a few calorie-traps to watch out for that can add unnecessary calories, fat, and sodium.  Now that you’ve read all about the 3 Pitfalls to Avoid with Salad Dressings, and have mastered healthier dressings, here are more ways to pump up the nutrition in your typical salads.  Try these easy swaps to ensure your lunch salad is packed full of nutritious gems to fuel you throughout the day.

grilled-chicken1. Instead of BACON, choose LEAN PROTEIN. Choosing leaner protein options like pork tenderloin or grilled chicken allows you that extra protein without adding lots of  calories, sodium or fat.  Try grilling extra pork tenderloin, chicken or salmon on the weekend to use as salad toppings for your weekday lunches!

leafy-greens2. Instead of ICEBERG LETTUCE, choose SPINACH or LEAFY GREENS.  While iceberg lettuce is still a vegetable, you’re missing out on an opportunity to load up on nutrients to form a base for your salad.  Spinach and romaine lettuce are high in folate, vitamin A and vitamin K, and the nutritious powerhouse kale is high in fibre and calcium, among others.  Try swapping half of your iceberg lettuce with these leafy greens to get familiar with the other options available to you.

grated-parmesan-cheese3. Instead of FULL-FAT CHEESE, choose GRATED HARD CHEESES.  Adding full-fat cubes of cheese can take a healthy salad to a not-so-healthy salad in an instant!  Using harder cheeses like Romano, Asiago or Parmesan provide the cheese in smaller amounts packed full of the flavor you desire.  Try grating a teaspoon or two of one of these cheeses to top your salad.

4. Instead of CROUTONS, choose CHOPPED NUTS.  Commercially-prepared croutons can be baked in tons of oil and added salt, and as such are giving you hidden calories along with their crunch.  If you’re looking to add some crunch to your salads, choosing chopped nuts like almonds gives you that crunch as well as extra protein, fiber, and even healthy fats!  Keeping serving sizes in mind, try adding about a tablespoon of nuts as a healthier crunchy topper.

beets5. Instead of LESS VEGGIES, choose MORE VEGGIES!  Some salads can have next-to-no vegetables besides the lettuce, and this is another one of those missed opportunities to add some nutrients!  Choosing a variety of colorful vegetables to use in your salads will not only increase your satiety, but also ensure that you’re getting valuable nutrients.  Try adding some unexpected ones like sliced beets or roasted sweet potatoes to your salads, along with usual favorites like bell peppers, celery, carrots, and zucchini.

What about you?  How do you pump up the nutrition in your salads?  I’d love to hear about your tips!

By Mitzi Dulan with research assistance from Megan Skinner

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3 thoughts on “5 Healthy Salad Swaps

  1. Love the “swap with hard grated cheese” idea! Never thought of that. More flavor! Also, I like to saute chicken strips with onion with extra virgin olive oil. Takes away from the whole “diet only” food reputation of salads and a lot more approachable the more you can do with it. Great post!

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