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Healthy Habits – Just How Healthy is Your Salad?

By: Kelly Koons

With the New Year approaching, many of us are re-evaluating our lifestyles and setting goals for a healthier year. One way you might go about this, is by your food choices. Many people opt for a salad when they are seeking a healthier option at a restaurant or drive-thru, but is that salad really that much healthier than the combo #5? Here are some tips for insuring you get the most nutrition out of your salad.

Although a salad smothered in Caesar, Ranch, or Blue Cheese dressing may be delicious, they serve little to no purpose in the nutrition department- in fact they are filled with fat, calories, and are high in sodium. A great substitute for salad dressing is olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette, or an avocado. If all else fails, ask for it on the side, and only eat a little.

One salad topping that tops the list for most is, meat. When ordering a salad it’s important to assure the meat is lean and not deep fried or breaded. Fried chicken and bacon are poor choices, even though it may taste good, they can be filled with bad carbohydrates, fat, grease, multiple calories, and high in sodium. Instead substitute with a grilled meat or turkey bacon that is smoked.

Caesar and western salads are infamous for croutons and tortilla strips which carry no nutritional value and pack extra calories, sodium, and carbohydrates. Try substituting chopped almonds, pumpkin seeds, or walnuts instead (be sure the nuts are not candied).

Cheese is another topping favorite for many salad lovers. Often times cheddar or mozzarella will be the cheese of choice, which is fine to use sparingly. If you would like a lower calorie option try Parmesan or Feta.

Many salads are beginning to incorporate dried fruit. Those consuming the fruit assume it must be one of the more nutritional ingredients in a salad, when in fact, many of the nutritional benefits were stripped when dried and loaded with sugar. Opt for fresh fruits in your salad and steer clear of canned or dried.

If you find it hard to make all these changes at once, that’s okay! Try the grilled chicken today, instead of the usual breaded you get. Remember, these changes won’t happen overnight, but continually trying and making it a lifestyle change, or “healthy habit”, will benefit you immensely!