What is it about salad that makes us feel healthy? For women in particular, there is something about the crunchy texture and colourful array that makes us feel like we will live forever. We can almost feel the fat burning off our thighs with every bite.
Unfortunately, salad is not always the healthiest choice. I once had a woman in my office, frustrated because she hadn’t lost any weight despite replacing her daily burger with a salad from her favourite fast- food restaurant. When I checked the nutrition information on the website, we discovered that there were actually more calories, fat and sodium in the salad than the burger. As an example, Wendy’s Chicken Caesar Salad has 760 calories and 49 grams of fat (if you use the whole dressing packet). Compare this with their Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger that has 350 calories and 19 grams of fat (without fries). Boston Pizza’s full-size Greek salad has 1,040 calories and 105 grams of fat, which exceeds their individual-sized Meteor pizza.
Now it may sound like I am promoting eating burgers and pizza instead of vegetables, but that is not the case. I am simply pointing out that salad can hold a surprising amount of calories. Furthermore, in my experience, it tends to leave you feeling less full and more prone to ordering dessert.
Where do all those calories and fat come from? Mostly from the dressing and the toppings such as cheese, nuts, croutons, and bacon bits. Salad can also be a very healthy choice – rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre – especially if made at home where you have control over the ingredients and dressings that go inside. So, with salad, keep these tips in mind:
• Choose salad with darker lettuce. Iceberg lettuce has very little nutritional value.
• Order your dressing on the side and use less.
• Vinaigrettes are usually lower in fat and calories than creamy dressings.
• At home, include a variety of vegetables with contrasting colours and textures.
• Increase the ratio of vinegar to oil or add some water to your favourite dressing.
• Side salads are still healthier than French fries to accompany your meal.
– Serena Caner is a registered dietician who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital. She will be taking the summer off from her column, but will return in September.