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Salads are often considered one of the healthiest foods you can eat, but that’s not always the case. Not all salads are created equal, and some can be quite unhealthy. The good news is that keeping your salad healthy is pretty straightforward once you know some basic salad-building tips. Here is what you should keep in mind when creating delicious, healthy salads.

Load-up on the Greens

The first step to any healthy salad is lots and lots of greens. Not only are greens low in calories, but they also help you to feel fuller and add important vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals to your meal. Try to avoid iceberg and other types of pale lettuce, although their water content is high, they generally don’t have as many nutrients. Red and dark leafy greens are high in antioxidants and vitamin B6. Other nutrients found in greens include Vitamin K, folic acid, iron, niacin, and riboflavin.

Some healthy greens to include in your salads are:

  • Romaine and leaf lettuces: The darker, the better; these lettuce options include nutrients such as vitamin C, folic acid, and potassium.
  • Spring mix, baby spinach, kale, and arugula: These leafy greens will add flavor and color to your salads, as well as beta-carotene and are packed with antioxidants.

Make it Crunchy

Crunchy textures can help make your salad more enjoyable and flavorful. There are several ways to add crunch and texture to your salads, so get creative! Avoid toppings like croutons, tortilla strips, wonton strips, and chow mein noodles because they are usually high in fat and sodium, offer little nutritional value and don’t do much more than contribute to blind calories.

Some crunchy foods to add to your salad include:

  • Celery: High in vitamin A, can be finely chopped and thrown in for texture.
  • Cucumber: Perfect for adding vitamin C. Slice it up and add it on top for a light flavor.
  • Purple cabbage: Contains vitamins A, C, iron and provides a powerhouse of antioxidants. Great shredded with mixed greens.
  • Pea pods: Loaded with vitamins A, C, and iron. They can be quickly added to any salad with minimal prep.
  • Broccoli: High in vitamin C and super protective antioxidants,the florets make a great addition to a variety of salads.
  • Alfalfa sprouts: Add antioxidants to your salad with these delicious sprouts.
  • Sunflower and chia seeds: Can be sprinkled into your salad to add fiber and protein. Sunflower seeds are NOT recommended during acute weight loss but are included in our Maintenance program once weight loss goals have been achieved.
  • Walnuts and almonds: Although nuts are NOT recommended during the traditional acute weight loss program, they are included in our Maintenance program once weight loss goals have been achieved and are permitted on our vegetarian plans. They are a great source of fiber, protein and niacin, and can be thrown in whole or chopped.

Add Color to Your Salad

Not only do ingredients with color add visual interest to your salad, but they add nutrients too. Each color provides a different blend of a variety of antioxidants that work together to maintain and optimize your metabolism, appearance and overall health. Some great examples of colorful add-ins include:

  • Peppers: Come in a variety of colors and contain vitamins C, B1, B2, B6, and folate.
  • Red onion: Can be chopped and sprinkled on your salad to add fiber and phytochemicals.
  • Pomegranate seeds: Bold, delicious flavor and color that contains vitamins A, C, and E, fiber, potassium, calcium, and antioxidants.
  • Tomatoes: Initially, tomatoes are generally NOT included in our acute weight loss program but are added once certain weight loss thresholds have been achieved. Add sliced or diced to give your salad fiber, vitamins A, C, and K, potassium, and manganese. Of interest for men, tomatoes are also a great source of lycopene which is believed to be protective against prostate cancer, especially when cooked.
  • Avocado slices: Avocados are calorically dense and are therefore NOT recommended during acute weight loss but are included in our Maintenance program once weight loss goals have been achieved. Avocados contain over 20 vitamins and minerals and heart-healthy fat. Avocado adds a wonderful flavor to many salads and can be used alone or in place of mayonnaise, as well as in many other applications.

Pack-on the Protein

Adding protein to your salads can help you feel fuller longer and give you the strength you need to get through the day. Some great protein sources to add to your salads include:

  • Black beans, garbanzo beans, or lentils: Chickpeas, beans, and lentils are super healthy and are included on our vegetarian and vegan weight loss plans but NOT on our non-vegetarian weight loss program until various weight loss goals have been achieved. Sprinkle them on for protein and fiber.
  • Chicken or lean beef: Can be shredded, chopped, or grilled, among other ways.
  • Salmon or water-packed tuna: Contains important omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Hard-boiled eggs: Taste great in a variety of salads.
  • Non- or Low-fat feta cheese, goat cheese, parmesan, or mozzarella: Include protein, calcium, and vitamin D.
  • Tofu: A heart-healthy food that is low in fat and contains an excellent source of protein and potassium.

Fruit Belongs on Salads, Too

Not only are fruits an important part of a healthy diet, but they can add a bold and sweet flavor to your salads. Mix it up with apple and pear slices, strawberries, raspberries or blueberries to add vitamin C, fiber, flavonoids, and antioxidants. Since dried fruits such as cranberries, blueberries, cherries, dates, and raisins are higher in sugar than fresh fruit, these are NOT recommended during our acute weight loss phase of the program.

Clean-out Your Refrigerator

When cleaning out your fridge, look for leftover veggies to add to your salads. Some great options include:

  • Brussel sprouts: High in antioxidants and vitamins C, A, B6, and folate, best if quartered.
  • Asparagus: Can be added whole or chopped to add vitamins A, E, K, and folate.
  • Sweet potatoes: Although we do NOT recommend sweet potatoes during acute weight loss they are allowed once on our Maintenance program. Sliced raw or cooked, they are a great source of vitamins A and C, antioxidants, and manganese. Just make sure you have sweet potatoes and not yams. Yams cannot be eaten raw.

Visit the Pantry

If you’re feeling especially bored, seeking nutritious canned or pickled foods can add a creative twist to your salads. Some unique options include:

  • Artichoke hearts: Toss them in for fiber, vitamin C, and folic acid. But don’t choose the marinated ones, as they are much higher in fat and calories.
  • Banana peppers: A great source of vitamin C.
  • Mushrooms: Can add a lot of flavor in addition to B vitamins and vitamin D.
  • Black or Greek olives: These are not recommended during acute weight loss but are included in our Maintenance phase. Look forward to adding them in moderation once weight loss goals have been achieved. High in vitamin E and healthy fat.

Dress for Eating

Light dressing options such as lemon or lime juice, white and red wine vinegar, low glycemic balsamic vinegar, and good quality olive oil can be healthier and lower in calories than other options. Avoid high-calorie, high-fat Ranch, Thousand Island, and French dressings, as it is easy to overdo these choices. If you want to indulge in a high-calorie dressing every once in a while, be sure to pay attention to the serving size on the bottle and use it sparingly.

We also have special recipes for dressings, like Citrus Cilantro Ranch, Russian Dressing, and Citrus Cilantro Vinaigrette in addition to our natural flavored Ultra Premium Olive Oils and low-glycemic White and Dark Premium Balsamic Vinegars.

Weight Loss Programs in South Florida

At CardioMender, MD our Medical Director, Dr. Barry Schiff, and his qualified weight loss center team will help you achieve your weight loss goals and maintain a healthy weight. This cardiologist-supervised weight loss program has helped many people in South Florida. You can be one of them, too! If you’re ready to start your journey, contact us today and get started on your custom treatment plan. You’ve Got to Live It!

Image Source: Elenadesign / Shutterstock

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