Friday, October 21, 2011
Don't Destroy your Salad
I love salads. All my friends will vouch for me on that one. There's nothing like finishing up a delicious entree then finishing off the meal with some greens. I bet many of you will agree that salads are delicious. And they're healthy too, right? I mean all those vegetables in one place, it's like the holy grail of bodily nutrients. But hold on. I'm here to tell you that your salad might not be as healthy as you think. You may be accidentally creating a meal that's got a lot of unseen unhealthy elements to it. Here's a few tips to make sure that your salad is liberated and can do your body the good it deserves.
No Dressing: Ah! Madness! No dressing on a salad? That doesn't sound too good, does it? Hold on a minute. I eat my salads plain every single day, and I can promise you not one of them is ever dry, bland, or distasteful in any way, shape or form. What's my secret? I use very juicy vegetables! Every one of my salads is piled high with juicy yellow peppers, red beans and chickpeas, cucumbers, and my favorite, tomatoes. Mix those around a little bit and your salad will take on a natural dressing that is actually quite tasty. And once you pop a bite into your mouth and crunch into a fresh and juicy grape tomato, you'd never know there was no dressing. I suggest you guys give it a try!
But why do I prefer not to dress my salad? Well I'll tell you a little something. That pile of ranch on top of your salad probably has at least twice the calories as the actual salad itself, along with a lot of artificial ingredients, sugars, saturated fats, and things of the like. In my opinion it's a LOT of calories you don't need. In fact only two tablespoons of traditional ranch has about 150 calories, and I see lots of people put on two to three times that amount. That's just ridiculous. The natural flavors of the vegetables are masked, and any sort of nutrient benefit from the salad is being overshadowed by the shear caloric weight of the ranch. This goes with all sorts of dressings, just read the nutrition labels. Thousand Island, italian, you name it, a lot of it will most likely be more than you bargained for.
But don't despair you dressing addicts. Salad dressing is not inherently bad, and there are a lot of very healthy alternatives. Let's discuss a few, and how they can make your salad absolutely delicious without adding many calories or other undesirables.
Salsa: Yes, that spicy, chunky, juicy, delicious tomato paste with peppers and beans. Salsa is VERY low in calories (10-20 calories for two tablespoons) and VERY flavorful. It can add a lot of character to any salad, and there are hundreds of varieties to choose from. In fact you can usually have your salad as spicy or sweet as you like with salsa. It's a great alternative that I highly suggest. Just watch out for the sodium, it tends to be pretty high in salsa, but 1-2 servings won't kill you.
Mustard: Same deal here, high amounts of flavor for low caloric density. Dijon and yellow mustard both can really give those greens a big kick, and will only add a few extra calories to the dish. It's all about amount of flavor for very little cost. Try it out!
Healthy oils: There's been studies that have proven that many nutrients in salad are FAT SOLUABLE. So you can kiss those low fat, high fructose corn syrup dressings goodbye. In fact low fat dressings can actually be worse for you than their traditional counterparts. But if you want great flavor and a lot of healthy, unsaturated fats to fully absorb nutrients from your bowl of veggies, I suggest either olive oil, or balsamic vinaigrette. Both are delcious and high in healthy fats which will do nothing but good for your body. Don't go overboard on the olive oil though, it's still high in caloric density, so measure out your portions.
Meats: I love me some salmon. And chicken. And shrimp. And anything of the like. And what an amazing way to make your salad more enjoyable! Stick some lean protein in there, make sure it's fresh and moist, and I guarantee you will NOT miss dressing for one second. That is if you decide to have it plain. I would also suggest trying any of the above dressing styles with meat, especially if you're looking to get some more protein in your diet. Again though, don't go overboard, and make sure that the meat is lean, fresh, and juicy. My all time favorite is a salmon salad, though shrimp and chicken are close seconds.
Portioned Traditional Dressing: Like I said before, the salad dressings you're used to aren't inherently bad! The shear amount of them is sometimes what kills you. If you want that ranch, go for it! Absolutely! But take the time to measure out the serving size. Heck, try half the serving size, and see if you can get by on it. Sometimes if you just take a little more time to appreciate the flavors of the food, you'll realize you didn't need so much dressing to begin with.
It's up to you, but I'd suggest experimenting. Try it plain, like me, and load it up with some juicy veggies. Then try some salsa, see if you like the kick. Then try the mustard, then some healthy oil. The same old thing gets boring anyway, right?
Dress lightly, love those greens, and good luck!