There are a lot of preconceived notions around salads. It seems as though the word ‘Salad’ automatically equates to ‘Healthy’. Unfortunately, that is just not true. Salads can be very healthy. They can also have more saturated fat and calories than a double decker cheeseburger. It all depends on what ingredients you choose to put into your salad. Vegetables, greens, and fruit are excellent, nutritious salad ingredients. Cheese, croutons, and dressings should be used sparingly.
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard, “I’ve been eating salads every day, and I’m not losing weight, I’m gaining weight.” When I was young, I worked in a gourmet cheese shop near a salad bar. The salad bar contained all sorts of yummy things. It had your typical veggie crudites, cottage cheese, assorted fruits, greens, jello, etc, and the price of the salad was determined by weight. After your container was loaded up, it was weighed and then a priced.
One of the heaviest ingredients of a salad is the salad dressing. This is also the most caloric ingredient of a typical salad. If you load up your salad with the healthiest of ingredients and then cover it up with a 3 – 4 ounces of ranch salad dressing of which most of the people I watched did, you just added 300 – 450 calories to your meal. That is a meal in itself, without much nutritional value.
To make your salad healthy, nutritional, and kind to your waistline, you can try to eat salad without salad dressing. I know of some brave souls that do this, but I cannot. I guess I can’t say that I cannot, I choose not to. I like my dressing. You can use less dressing. Dipping your fork tines into the salad dressing instead of pouring it directly on your salad is popular. I’ve tried it, and it isn’t too difficult. It can be effective, or you can find lower calorie dressings.
A word of caution in regard to the lower calorie dressings. If you read labels, you will find that fat is often replaced with sugar or high fructose corn syrup. I don’t know about you, but that is something I try to avoid. I have tried to find recipes for homemade salad dressing that sound tantalizing, appear healthier, and are less processed, but I have not had much luck. There are usually too many ingredients and they involve so many fresh ingredients that need to be chopped into hardly recognizable flakes that it seems to be too much effort, and I don’t want really chunky dressing. I have heard rumors of dressing with a chicken broth base from Wolfgang’s restaurant, but have yet to find it. If you do, please let me know.
As fate would have it and because I can be a little lazy to actually make my own dressing, I recently ran across a pretty good dressing that tastes great, contains natural ingredients, and has far fewer calories. If you get the chance, check out Bolthouse Farms Yogurt Dressings. They have all of the typical flavors with a fraction of the fat and calories. (see image to the right) The standard Ranch dressing has only 45 calories per serving and it tastes awesome. Bolthouse is in the grocer section and isn’t available everywhere that I can find. However, if you go to their site, they have a feature to let you search and find a local store that should sell it. If you can’t find it, a close runner up was Marie’s Yogurt Dressing. Marie’s tasted almost as good, but it had a few more calories than the Bolthouse brand.
Salad Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net