It’s easy to have a salad and call it a healthy meal, but experts will tell you that these days, some salads aren’t actually healthy at all.
Anar Allidina, a registered dietitian based in Richmond Hill, Ont., says some restaurant and fast-food salads are loaded with fat and high in calories.
“It’s always a great idea to get in veggies, but salads are not your only choice,” she tells Global News. “Try having steamed veggies as a side with a lean protein or even a water-based vegetable soup.”
And of course, not every meal will have vegetables in it — if that’s the case, Allidina suggests snacking on baby carrots or snap peas through the day before you go out.
Some reports have found salads at McDonald’s, for example, had more fat that a burger, the Daily Mail reports.
“With dressing and croutons it contains 425 calories and 21.4 g of fat, compared with the 253 calories and 7.7 g of fat in the standard burger,” the site notes.
Shape magazines notes crispy chicken Caesar salads, taco salads and Asian grilled chicken salads are some of the unhealthiest salads you can order at restaurants.
READ MORE: Keeping a happy, healthy body all summer
Below, Allidina lists the top ways people tend to sabotage their summer salads. From creamy dressings to empty calories to salads with loaded with cheese, you’re better off skipping these kinds of salads altogether.
Overdoing the dressing
“Always order the dressing on the side, this way you have control of how much you are [eating]. To further control your dressing intake, dip your fork in before each bite,” she says. Also, stick to oil-based dressings and avoid creamy ones.
Adding the croutons
Allidina says croutons are empty calories and refined carbohydrates. “Try adding a teaspoon of sunflower seeds or some roasted chickpeas for some crunch and healthy fat. Alternatively, you can replace the refined carbs with complex carbs such as a 1/4 cup of quinoa or brown rice.”
Loading up on the cheese
Cheese-topped salads make salads generally taste better, but the calories can be sky-high. “Adding a sprinkle of cheese is fine, but aim to have about one tablespoon of cheese. A great replacement for cheese is avocado — it gives the creaminess without the sodium and saturated fat.”
Mixing dried fruit and candied nuts
“Stay clear of dried fruit and candied nuts, as this can really potentially lead your salad to having more sugar than a cupcake,” she says. Dried fruit tends to be more concentrated in sugar, she adds, while candied nuts are not nutritious. Instead, stick to fresh summer fruit like berries and peaches for natural sweetness.
Even with salads, you should have portion control. “Aim to have two handfuls of salad,” Allidina says. “The more salad you have, the more toppings and dressing you will need, so portion control is still important.” And if you do opt for a restaurant salad, share it with a friend or save the other half for the next day.
High-fat protein sources
Bacon, crispy chicken and even falafel balls can be high in fat and calories. “Stick to lean protein such as tuna, salmon, grilled chicken, lentils and beans that amp the fullness factor with very little fat.”