Everyone knows that the best part of salads are the toppings, right? I mean, otherwise you’re just eating a big bowl of greens…Yum? However, while they may taste great, deep-fried meats, bacon, croutons, and dressings can all add exorbitant amounts of carbs, fats, and unwanted calories to a meal you thought was healthy. In fact, when dining at a fast food restaurant, burgers and sandwiches are often less calorically dense options than the salads available. This being said, micronutrients are important, and I wouldn’t necessarily advocate choosing a burger over a salad. That is, as long as the salad is filled with healthy, nutrient-dense toppings. Utilize some of the following additions in your meals to add low calorie flavor and crunch while also providing your body with essential vitamins and minerals.
From apples to berries, nearly any fruit can be added to a salad to add sweetness and texture to your meal. Experiment with different combinations to find what you like, and make sure to vary your intake to reap the benefits of all the nutrients offered by different fruits.
2. Nuts and Seeds
Instead of loading your salad with piles of croutons, opt for a small amount of nuts or seeds. They’re great sources of healthy fats to keep you full and focused throughout the day. Just be mindful of portion sizes as the calories can quickly add up.
3. Lean Meats
Just because you choose not to add bacon and deep-fried chicken doesn’t mean you should skip protein altogether. Instead, add lean cuts of turkey, chicken, and shrimp. You can also choose to add hard boiled eggs or chickpeas for great flavor and texture! Protein works to keep you satiated and is crucial for muscle growth and repair.
4. Healthy Dressings
Dressings are typically the main culprit behind extremely calorie-dense salads, but there are plenty of options to provide all the flavor with less of the calories provided by your typical dressing. For example, you can opt for fat-free or reduced calorie versions of your favorite dressings, choose to simply use oil and vinegar, or skip dressings altogether and instead use spices and herbs to flavor your meal.
Salads don’t have to be boring to taste good, and they definitely don’t have to destroy your diet. They’re easy to meal prep, are a great way to pack in essential micronutrients, and can be made to include a lot of food for small amounts of calories to keep you full, focused, and on your way to achieving your goals.
*One of my favorite salads includes: spinach, shrimp, hard boiled eggs, toasted almonds, strawberries, and light poppy seed dressing.