Stop ruining that salad!

I am not a big fan of calorie counting, but I am totally into healthy eating. My logic is that if it is healthy then the calories will take care of themselves and obsessing over them is unnecessary on my part.

Salads are easily associated with healthy eating because they have a large portion of fresh greens that are great for our bodies. This view is largely universal, but the fact is that salads can make or break your healthy eating plan if done wrong. A salad is only as good as its ingredients and there is no point in emphasizing healthy eating when your salad is full of foods that are bad for your body. Never rate your salad based on how great it looks but rather break down its components and decide if they are good.

If your goal is being healthy you need a big overhaul to transform your salads from mere representations of healthy eating to real sources of nutrition that boost your health. Look out for these 4 elements that may actually be doing more harm than good.

1. Vegetable nutrients density

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Eating well means eating to get nutritional value. A big culprit that lacks nutritional value but features in lots of salads is Iceberg lettuce. Contrary to popular belief that Iceberg lettuce is a healthy vegetable that makes most salads the healthy treats that they are, it is mostly water and contains little fiber and vitamins. Try to limit the amount of Iceberg lettuce in any of your salads and mix it up with other lettuce types (e.g. Romaine and red leaf) and throw in dark leafy vegetables like spinach, arugula, and kale which have higher proportions of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.

2. The wrong fat and high calories

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What is a salad without some great topping and delicious additions? Most salads have some meat, cheese, nuts, and a lot of other healthy goodies thrown into the mix, but is everything as good as it seems?

Meat: If you love your body and you want to stay live in good health you should stay away from processed meat and go for the unrefined type. I am impartial about advocating for organic meat, but I know that every body deserves lean meat produced in safe conditions.  Choosing good meat is important, but how you cook the meat is equally important. You may love the crunch of fried meat but the calories and amount of fat involved are just not worth it. Opt for grilling your meat and make sure your salad has a low meat proportion – healthy protein in moderation is key.

Croutons and fatty goodies: These bits of bread make for an excellent crunchy salad topping but they are an addition that does little for your health. A mere ½ cup of croutons contains a whopping 100 calories. Healthier alternatives to croutons include nuts and seeds but you should also be wary of overeating them. Nuts and seeds contain healthy fatty acids and fiber but overindulgence means that you are consuming excess fat which ultimately becomes unhealthy. Avocados are another salad favorite, but just like nuts, they are great when eaten in the right quantities that keep the fat consumption at a good level.

Cheese: Adding cheese to salads is common practice as it is an excellent source of protein and calcium. On the flip side, cheese, especially the processed type, contains large amounts of calories, sodium, preservatives, and saturated fat. Harder cheeses tend to have more fat and the low-fat variants are normally loaded with unhealthy preservatives and sodium. Go for whole milk cheese sourced from grass-fed cows, and if you can, make your own cheese. At the end of the day, a little goes a long way, and cheese should comprise a good small part of your salad.

3. Sugar and sodium! Oh boy…

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The low-fat and fat-free trend came and it promised great things to the health lovers. Logically, lower fat should equate to healthy but the reality is that most low- or fat-free products contain exorbitant amounts of sodium, emulsifiers, sugar, and preservatives. You have to rethink those healthy low-fat salad dressings and vinaigrettes. Normal dressings have lots of saturated fat but their low-fat counterparts may just be as bad. Opt for homemade dressings and vinaigrettes, and you may even consider other healthy alternatives like yogurt, olive oil, and lemon juice.

Apart from the sodium, sugar is also no good if you are pro-health. Fruit may seem like a good idea whatever form it comes in, but you should stay away from dried fruit. The process that removed water from the fruit left so much sugar which is bad for anyone and will make candy look like a better alternative. Use dried fruit sparingly if you should have it at all or just go with fresh fruit instead.

4. Portion size matters

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When you have carefully selected your salad ingredients and tossed all of them together, the last important bit is to make sure you are eating enough and no more. Too much roughage from large salad portions may stress your GI tract and you may end up sick or bloated. A cup to a cup and a half of salad a day should do the trick.

A great salad for the road

I am not a big fan of calorie counting, but I am totally into healthy eating. My logic is that if it is healthy then the calories will take care of themselves and obsessing over them is unnecessary on my part. This is why I got very excited when I stumbled on this great salad recipe on Karina’s Café Delites site.  I have to say I fell in love with the salad, and it totally won me over when I figured out that it only comes with 417 calories. It’s a great treat if you are health conscious and you would like to stay healthy without sacrificing on great flavors and good, wholesome food. This recipe epitomizes a healthy salad, complete with the perfect combination and balance of ingredients.

I tweaked the recipe to cater for just 2 people and I skipped the flatbreads, but if you would like to check out the original recipe that serves 4, head over to https://cafedelites.com/chicken-shawarma-salad/

The salad is very fresh and oh so tasty with the amazing, and don’t forget healthy, yogurt dressing with small amounts of tahini. I am already a shawarma fan, and having it in a healthy salad form is a plus.

healthy chicken shawarma salad recipe

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