Whether you're looking for ways to eat healthier or want to lose weight, adding more leafy greens to your diet can help; greens like lettuce, arugula, and kale are low in calories and packed with nutrients. Making a salad might seem like an easy way to eat better and incorporate greens into your meals, but oftentimes the toppings that we add to our salads turn them into high-fat, high-calorie diet bombs that are loaded with salt and sugar.salad? Start by choosing a variety of delicious and colorful fresh fruits and vegetables. Many dietitians recommend eating at least three "colors" with every meal — consuming produce in a variety of colors helps ensure you're getting a wider variety of nutrients in your diet. And choosing fresh produce instead of dried or dehydrated ingredients helps you control the added salt and sugar in your meal.
Once you have a colorful base for your salad, add some whole grains. Whole grains will help keep you fuller longer and provide you with the fiber your body needs for proper digestion. Good choices include chewy farro or whole-wheat pasta with a small shape, like orzo. Simply cook and cool your grains and then toss them with the other salad ingredients.
Adding protein to your salad can help keep you full as well. Be sure to choose lean proteins that don't have much else added to them, like hard-boiled egg whites or grilled chicken breast. Grilled chicken, for example, shouldn't have a crispy breading or be cooked with a high-sugar, high-salt sauce or marinade. If you are vegan, quinoa is a great source of complete, plant-based protein; try cooking it in low-sodium chicken stock for extra flavor.
Once you've built a wholesome salad with lots of fresh produce, whole grains, and protein, make sure to top it with something equally as wholesome. A small sprinkle of seeds or chopped nuts can add some crunch to your salad (and boost your protein intake), and a healthy but flavorful salad dressing is a must. In general, oil-based salad dressings are better for you than creamy ones; try making your own by whisking some olive oil into a mixture of balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and minced fresh herbs until a vinaigrette forms.
Lastly, make sure you avoid or limit your use of potentially diet-bombing ingredients when you’re building a salad. Even good-for-you ingredients can sabotage your healthy eating plan when they’re consumed in excess. Here are a few salad toppings that can easily turn your salad into an unhealthy meal.
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.