Just because you are making your salad at home doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. In fact, recent research shows that certain popular (bought for home use) salad toppings are even worse than buying your salad from MacDonald’s.
What’s more is that because salads are associated with health and wellness we tend to forget about things like portion sizes. Instead we chuck copious amounts of calories into the bowl and assume that because it’s mixed with lettuce then it will all be okay. Unfortunately, your body doesn’t share that idea. In reality there are consequences when you pile in handfuls of honeyed nuts and cheddar cheese.
Let’s take a look at the unhealthiest salad toppings and some healthy (and delicious) alternatives.
The Four Worst Salad Toppings
Bacon is one of the most opted for ingredients in salads in restaurants. Everyone loves the crispy, smoky, fatty meat. Unfortunately, Bacon is a killer. According to The World Health Organisation, Processed meats like bacon cause colorectal cancer. Bacon also gives you about 100 calories for every two slices you eat, and there is probably no food higher in animal fat. All in all, bacon is no good for your body, no matter which way you slice it.
Not all cheese are the same. Here are some of them you should watch out for –
Low sodium cheese – You might think low sodium is a good thing, but some cheese substitute the salt with potassium chloride. Here’s an example – Helluva Good Natural Cheese, Reduced Sodium Cheddar. Although potassium chloride is considered safe by the FDA; however, people with kidney or heart problems should avoid it. It’s also a found in fertilizer and, until the 1960s, was used in fire extinguishers as an effective fire retardant.
Some cheese also contains emulsifier like polysorbate 80. Some clinical studies has shown that it increases the risk of serious side effects (eg, blood clots, stroke, heart attack, heart failure) and death in some cases. It has also been shown to shorten overall survival and/or increase the risk of tumor growth or recurrence in patients with certain types of cancer.
In short, read the label of the cheese you are adding to your salad.
Do you like to add a bit of sweetness to your salad to offset the other flavours? If you do you are probably adding dried fruit. Stop! Dried fruit is a sneaky sin because it seems so healthy. The problem is when it is dehydrated it becomes sugar and calorie dense. It is also often processed with added sugar, oil and other chemicals.
Shop Bought Dressing
(Creamy or fat free)
It probably comes as no surprise that creamy dressings are packed with fat and preservatives – how else could they stay fresh on the shelf so long before you open them? But did you know that fat free salad dressings are usually just as bad? Just like the cheese, they are often to replace the fat and oil all kinds of chemicals and emulsifiers are used to create a creaminess. These chemicals are extremely bad for your health.
The Four Best Salad Toppings to Use Instead
Black beans give the highest portion of protein, fibre and essential minerals and vitamins, when compared to all other legumes. They even have more protein than your same sized serving of meat. If you ever had to find an alternative to meat this is it. Black Beans are a natural anti-oxidant, which means they will help prevent cancer. A cup of black beans contains not only 15 grams of protein, but also almost 30 % of your daily iron requirements and 22% of your daily magnesium requirements.
Crunchy Roasted Veg
Roasted veggies can be delicious in a salad. They add texture, colour and flavour to your food with the added benefit of being high in nutritional value and fibre. They are also free from any artificial processing. The exact nutrient value of your roasted veg will depend on what vegetable you choose. Popular choices include butternut, sweet potato, peppers, mushrooms and brinjals.
Raw Seeds and Nuts
Your nuts and seeds must be raw when you buy them, not the ready roasted and salted kind. Once you get them home you can always brown them lightly under the grill if you prefer the roasted flavour. These add crunch and texture to your salad, as well as a delicious flavour. The real win, though, is the incredible level of omega-3 fatty acids they contain. Nuts like walnuts contain high levels of biotin, which helps hair and nail growth while fighting depression. They are also high in antioxidants like vitamin E which as we know helps to fight cancer causing cell damage.
This Home-made Creamy Dressing
For your own home-made creamy salad dressing you can blend half an avocado with half a cup of Greek yoghurt (plain). Add a hint of lemon zest and ginger, or any other fresh herbs and flavours you enjoy. Alternatively, you can substitute humus for either the Avocado or the yoghurt.
The Best Salads
The best salads should be heavy in dark green leafy vegetables such as baby spinach leaves, cranberry leaves and of course lettuce. In addition to this they should have four or five extra toppings that will collectively provide you with protein, fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, mineral and of course plenty of flavour. If you find your salad with all of these ingredients is more than one serving (about a soup bowl full) you can always share with a friend, save some for later, or just try to downscale all of your portion sizes.
Do you have at least 1 bowl of salad a day?
Sometimes it can be difficult when it is cold outside. Here’s a great way to get your daily greens nutrients instead –
About the Author:
Emma Deangela is the best selling author of The Alkaline Diet Program and 80/20 Fat Loss. She has helped over tens of thousands of men and women to lose weight and transform their health with sound nutrition advice. Trying to lose weight after the holiday binge? Learn how you can lose weight fast – How to lose weight by adding these alkaline foods.
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