Salads have long been thought of as the “healthy” choice, the dieter’s choice and the meal of the slim or those that are trying to lose weight. While in fact, salads can actually be a major trap which can cause slowed weight-loss or even lead to weight gain.
While this may sound like terrible news, especially if you’re a salad fanatic, the problem is easily solved. Most of the common mistakes people make when preparing their salads can be amended, so you can still enjoy the salad without gaining weight. Wondering how your salad is making you fat? Here’s why:
1. You Choose High-Calorie Dressings
So, you’ve got the fresh veggies and lean protein all set, then you add a big dollop of a store-bought, creamy dressing. Unfortunately, the healthy ingredients in your salad will not reduce the unhealthiness of the dressing. Not only do store-bought dressings contain a lot of fat, they often contain a lot of hidden sugars too.
Creamy dressing such as ranch can pile up to 150 calories onto your salad with only a couple of splashes. Check out the calorie content of other dressings here and you’ll realise how it can quickly add up.
The fix: Make your own dressing out of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. If you really want something creamy, mix together some sugar-free, plain yogurt with lemon juice, fresh herbs and olive oil.
2. You Add High-Calorie Toppings
Lots of cheese, croutons, bacon and even tortilla chips or baskets can really pile the calories into your salad bowl. It’s easy to think that a little sprinkle of something salty and crunchy won’t cause any harm.
But, when you’re eating salads daily, those little extras can really add up to a high-calorie count.
The fix: Use plain, unsalted nuts and seeds for a variation in texture. A tablespoon of chopped almonds, for example, will provide healthy fats without adding too many calories.
On the topic of healthy fats, read more about our review on this fat buner, Ultra Omega Burn, which uses Omega -7 as it’s main ingredient.
Avoid processed meat, cheese and store-bought salad toppers such as croutons. When using nuts and seeds, avoid roasted, salted, candied or coated and always opt for raw, plain varieties.
3. You Add Too Much Sugar
Dried fruits such as dried apricots, dates, cranberries and raisins are tasty and add sweetness to salads. However, when added regularly, and in reasonably high quantities, they can pack too much sugar into your diet.
As mentioned above, store-bought dressings can also deliver a hit of unwanted sugar to your meal as well.
The fix: Fruit in a salad isn’t a bad thing at all, if you use fresh fruit. A couple of sliced strawberries or some diced orange segments will provide sweetness without the extra sugar. If you desperately want dried fruit, just add a tiny amount, and not on every salad, if you eat salads every day.
4. You Don’t Add Enough Protein
You may feel completely virtuous and healthy with your salad of leaves, veggies and a sprinkle of dressing. However, if you’ve forgotten to add a hit of protein, you may be on your way to weight gain.
Protein helps you to feel full and satisfied, keeping hunger at bay until the next meal time. By staying fuller for longer, you will snack less and ultimately consume fewer calories.
Also, a high-protein diet helps to get the metabolism working quickly, and helps muscle growth which is another way to boost the metabolism and burn more calories. If you don’t add a healthy source of protein to your salad, you’ll be more likely to pack it will less healthy ingredients.
What’s more, if your salad doesn’t satisfy? You’ll end up snacking more between meals and the calories will pile up.
The fix: Add healthy protein sources to your salads such as lean chicken breast, and oily fish such as tuna or salmon. For vegetarian options, try eggs, beans, lentils or tofu. Remember not to fry your protein (unless with a tiny drizzle of olive oil), and don’t use breaded protein (such as breaded chicken or fish). Grilled or steamed protein is best.
5. Your Portions Are Too Large
Leafy greens and watery veggies (tomatoes, cucumber) are very low in calories and can be eaten in reasonably large quantities. However, if you make a large salad base with big portions of veggies, your portions of added ingredients will be large too. Filling out a large salad with high-calorie extras is going to result in a portion size far larger than what you need.
The fix: Start with your non-veggie ingredients first. Add a serving size of protein, a small sprinkling of healthy fats if using (i.e. nuts and seeds), add your healthy carbs (i.e. a small serving of brown rice), then add your veggies. You can add as much leafy greens as you like, but do remember that too much may cause bloating. By adding the high-calorie ingredients first, you’ll know that your portions are in control, and not hidden by mounds of salad leaves.
6. Your Salads Aren’t Satisfying Your Hunger
Despite the high-calorie additions you may be throwing into your salad, you may not be eating enough substantial food to keep you satisfied. When you are hungry and unsatisfied you are far more likely to go roving to the pantry or fridge and snack on unhealthy treats.
By eating a substantial lunch or dinner with a good balance of protein, healthy carbs and lots of veggies, you’ll be satiated and unlikely to want to eat more.
The fix: Either cut the high-calorie additions to your salad and replace them with lean protein or healthy carbs (whole grains, veggies such as sweet potato or pumpkin), or scrap the salads altogether. A piece of grilled fish with veggies and a small portion of brown rice is going to keep you fuller for longer, while offering an array of nutritional benefits.
Don’t let this scare you away from enjoying your daily salad! Salads can be an extremely smart choice for lunch or dinner if prepared correctly. Stay away from packaged or processed ingredients and use whole, raw and unprocessed toppings such as raw nuts and seeds.
Make your own dressings out of oil, lemon, vinegar and yoghurt to keep the calories down. Remember to add a healthy dose of protein, and keep the portion sizes in order.
A “rainbow” of color is also a good way to ensure you’re getting a wide mix of nutritious veggies.
Go for purple, green, red, orange and yellow veggies and mix raw and cooked options for varied texture and flavor.
Jack Seal is a fanatic reader and ‘experimenter’ of the latest diet fads and tips to see what works and what doesn’t. As someone who had weight issues since young, he has come a long way to get into his current fit form.