A healthy trip to the salad bar can quickly take a bad turn once you pile on fatty, sugary, calorie-laden toppings. Here, Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, the Good Housekeeping Research Institute’s Nutrition Director, shares which ingredients to steer clear of.
America’s favorite dairy product can plop a hefty amount of calories onto a bed of greens, so use it sparingly, says Cassetty. Resist piling cheese on your salad – just small quantities of bleu, feta, or Parmesan cheese will add a big boost of flavor.
2. Croutons and crispy noodles
Though these often-fried accoutrements give great crunch to a plate of romaine, the extra texture comes with calories and carbs, says Cassetty. Drizzling one-half cup of crispy noodles will add 117 calories to your dish, and the equivalent amount of seasoned croutons will tack on 93 calories.
3. Candied nuts
Calorie counts can skyrocket when you adorn salads with sugar-coated pecans and walnuts, says Cassetty. Although unglazed nuts contain about 1 gram of sugar (less than one-fourth of a teaspoon) per ounce, their sweetened counterparts can increase the sugar content of a spinach salad by about 10 grams (2 teaspoons) per ounce. One gram of sugar amounts to 4 calories, so a 1-ounce serving of candied nuts can tack on an extra 40 calories.
4. Fat-free dressing
Fat-free dressings rely on extra sugar and salt for flavor; instead, try reduced-fat varieties, which offer healthy fats while limiting sugar and calories, says Cassetty. Avoid creamy products altogether: Even reduced-fat options usually contain about twice as many calories per serving as vinaigrettes.
5. Dried Fruit
In small portions, dried fruit won’t compromise the wholesomeness of your salad, but because manufacturers often add sugar during the dehydration process, the calories can quickly add up, says Cassetty. Avoid popular culprits, such as cranberries, which total about 130 calories and 29 grams of sugar per one-fourth cup serving; opt for naturally sweet raisins (which require no additional sugar) instead.
Limit the amount of bacon in your salad to reduce your intake of calories and saturated fat, says Cassetty. A 2010 review of studies conducted by the American Heart Association found that daily consumption of processed meats, such as bacon, was associated with an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. If your salad is begging for some bacon, top your arugula with one strip of meat, says Cassetty. A small portion of this savory ingredient should pack enough flavor for the whole meal.
The creamy goodness of mayo used in potato and pasta salads means eating extra calories that don’t fill you up, says Cassetty. One-half cup of homemade potato salad totals 179 calories, while the same serving size of pasta salad contains about 126 calories. Consider healthier mixed green options that pack more protein.
– By JuJu Kim