iStock_000011394253XSmallHaving a salad is often a persons attempt at having a healthy meal.  I mean…the majority of ingredients are usually vegetables (unless you are eating a “salad fat” approach to dieting) so it’s hard not to assume it’s healthy.  I think having a salad is a great start to making healthy choices but you should know that salads are not always as healthy as their persona implies.  Below you will find five reasons why salads could be making you “salad fat”.

  1. Dressing
  2. Cheese
  3. Bacon bits, chopped up whole yolk eggs,
  4. Croutons and other crunchy things
  5. Iceberg lettuce

Need I say more?

You might be thinking…ok I get the dressing part, I get the cheese part, I get the bacon & egg part…but HOLD UP…I do not understand how croutons and iceberg lettuce translate into me being “salad fat”!  Looking at the nutritional value of iceberg lettuce and croutons and combining it with simple human psychology can give you a hint.  First, neither croutons or iceberg lettuce have much to offer in terms of nutritious value or fiber content so they don’t satiate you and they do very little to fuel your cells.  Second, and this is where the psychology comes in…if you assume what you’ve eaten earlier in the day was healthy you are more likely to “cheat” a little with meals later in the day.  Not to mention that since you are still hungry because of the low nutrient and fiber content in your iceberg lettuce salad, guess what types of food choices you are more likely to make later in the day?  You guessed it!  You are more likely to overeat and make unhealthy choices if you’ve had a “healthy salad” that barely supplied your stomach or your nutrient starved cells with what they need to feel satisfied.

 

Don’t believe me?  Check out this Caesar salad breakdown…

1. Iceberg lettuce

  • Upside: low cal
  • Downside: low nutrient value, low fiber content, not filling, no taste

2. Parmesan cheese

  • Upside: tasty
  • Downside: saturated fat & salt content

3. Croutons

  • Upside: crunchy
  • Downside: very little nutritional value as a carbohydrate, often disregarded as calories even when entire salad is covered with them

4. Anchovies (for those who eat them)

  • Upside: great source of omega-3, some protein
  • Downside: very salty and only semi-appetizing

5. Dressing

  • Upside: healthwise- none, but it does add taste to iceberg
  • Downside: high in saturated fat & usually made with trans fats which are very bad for you

As you can see, what seems like a healthy option – caesar salad, can be sort of a trick. With its low % of protein, low quality carbohydrates, and high salt and saturated fat content what seems like a delicious salad is more like a saturated fat delivery system!  This can also be true of other types of salads when generous amounts of cheese, dressing & things like bacon bits are used on them.

If iceberg lettuce and croutons are all that is available, try to improve the overall profile of the salad (caesar or any other) by adding a chicken breast, using 1/2 the dressing, using vinegar and oil or balsamic as a substitute for cream based dressing, and avoiding croutons. This doesn’t make it a perfect meal but it improves the overall profile tremendously.