by Tanya Zuckerbrot, RD Men's Fitness
Ditching these toppings will cut major calories and bad fat. Here is how to slim it down. Topping your salad with these could cost you half a day's worth of calories.
Many people think that by ordering a salad they are eating healthy—and in many cases they are absolutely right. A heaping serving of greens and vegetables is low in calories and provides a bounty of vitamins and minerals along with a nice dose of fiber and antioxidants. However, some salads start off healthy, but wind up anything but for all the calories and fat plopped on top. In fact, an piled-on salad bar feast can pack half a day’s worth or more of fat and calories.
This is not to say that salads must be limited to cucumbers, tomatoes, and a spritz of lemon or vinegar. Well-chosen toppings can turn a salad into a hearty, nutritionally-balanced meal. Here are the ingredients to add—and the salad ingredients to skip—from Tanya Zuckerbrot, RD, author of The F-Factor Diet.
Cheese is flavorful and a good source of protein and calcium, but most full-fat varieties are high in saturated fat and calories. A half-cup of shredded cheddar cheese contains about 18g of fat and 225 calories and it can be deceiving to portion out pre-shredded cheese. The good news is that a little shredded or grated cheese packs a lot of flavor. Figure that a single serving of shredded cheese is 2 tablespoons—and you'll save 170 calories and 16 g of fat.
Adding those crispy noodles to your salad will give it a nice Asian-inspired crunch, alright. The downside is that crispy noodles pack about 130 calories, 5g of fat, and more than 200mg of sodium per half cup serving. Water chestnuts are a much healthier way to get the crunch you want. The same serving of water chestnuts contains no fat, only 35 calories, and less than 10mg of sodium, while adding 2g bonus of fiber!
A 3 ounce serving of skinless chicken breast provides more than 20g of lean protein, but order it breaded and fried and you may as well have ordered a deluxe cheeseburger and fries. Make that chicken breast grilled and you’ll automatically trim 100 calories and more than 20g of fat! For extra flavor and virtually no fat, marinade your chicken in zesty blend of citrus, herbs and seasonings.
Bits of fruit can add plenty of tang and crunch to your salad, but choose your fruit wisely. Dried cranberries for example seem healthy, but guess again. A serving of dried, sugar-sweetened cranberries is merely one-third of a cup, and with that you get 130 calories and over 30g of carbohydrates (the equivalent of 2 slices of white bread)! A smarter way to go: chop up a whole medium-size green apple for bursts of sweet, fruity flavor and only 80 calories.
Don’t assume turkey bacon is better than full-fat pork bacon. Check the nutrition facts and you’ll see that while ultra-lean versions contain 0g of saturated fat, some varieties can contain as much or even more fat and sodium as center-cut pork bacon. A half-cup of turkey bacon pieces has 157 calories and 11.5g of fat. Choose a half-cup of ham pieces and save 40 calories and 5.5g of fat, and still get that smoky flavor without the fat.
Olive Oil and Vinegar
Ditching creamy Italian dressing for some olive oil and vinegar may not be all that much healthier. For the same 2-tablespoon serving, creamy Italian is actually lighter than olive oil and vinegar -- you save 10 calories and 1g of fat. But, at 140 calories and 15g fat per serving, skip the dressing altogether and go with light balsamic vinaigrette, which has only 30 calories and 2g fat per 2 tablespoon serving.
Avocado in moderation is good for you, but many restaurants go overboard with eye-popping servings that turn a modest salad into a veritable calorie bomb! One cup of sliced avocado has 235 calories and 21g of fat, reason enough to ease up on the green stuff and instead go for spicy salsa that saves you 165 calories and 20g of fat.
Many people think that by ordering a salad they are eating healthy—and in many cases they are absolutely right.