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Is your salad sabotaging you?

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

We generally think of salads as being the healthy option when we're trying to lose weight, and they usually are. But not all salads are created equal. Itís important to pay attention to whatís actually in your salad, especially when eating out at a restaurant or cafť, as often what masquerades as a healthy choice can actually contain salty, sugary, fatty, and nutritionally poor ingredients. Donít let it fool you! Here are a few things to look out for to make sure your salad isnít sneaking in extra caloriesÖ


Cheese might add extra flavour to your salad, but it also adds extra saturated fat, so use it in moderation. It also pays to be careful choosing which type of cheese to use. Avoid hard, dry cheeses that are low in moisture, as these are the most concentrated sources of fat. Instead, swap your parmesan for feta, which is still quite high in fat but has a stronger taste, so you tend to eat less. Another idea is to leave cheese out altogether. Get your flavour hit from colourful vegetables instead, like beetroot, tomato, capsicum, and carrot, or even fruits like apple, mango, grapes and mandarin. These will add variety to your salad without the extra fat.


Itís important to be wary of bacon in restaurant or ready-made salads, as often it is deep fried, and you canít control what part of the bacon you are getting. When youíre cooking bacon yourself, only use the eye- itís still quite high in salt, but itís much lower in fat. Alternatively, try using a different source of protein that is lower in salt. Grilled chicken, tofu, eggs, salmon, tuna, chickpeas, lentils, and beans are all good options that will keep you feeling full for longer.


They might seem innocent, but croutons are essentially just bread fried in fat- much better to leave these out of your salad altogether! But there are plenty of other ingredients you can replace them with for extra texture and taste. Try oven-roasted nuts, like pine-nuts, walnuts or almonds. Sprinkling a handful of these over your salad is a much better way to get that crunch.   


Pasta salad has a way of making us forget that it is in fact a cold bowl of pasta. Normal pasta is highly refined, with high calorie content, high GI, and low nutritional value. So while itís okay in moderation, try replacing it with wholemeal pasta in your salad. Wholemeal pasta is higher in fibre and has more vitamins and iron, so this is a much better use of your calories.

A word on dressingsÖ

It seems like a good move to opt for fat-free dressings- but this isnít always the case. In fact, a lot of fat-free dressings are doing you more harm than good, as they are much higher in sugar and sodium, and they reduce your bodyís ability to absorb the antioxidants from all the good stuff in the salad. On the other hand, the fats in oils like vegetable, olive and seed, help you to absorb antioxidants, so using these in moderation is often a better choice. A good tip to try is dressing your salad with two tables of olive oil mixed with lemon juice or balsamic vinegar- the acidity gives you a little extra flavour, and lowers the GI of the salad.

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