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5 Ways Your Salad is Hindering Your Weight Loss Efforts

What exactly defines a salad anyway? I asked myself this question one day as I stood behind a man at a popular chain restaurant and watched the employee assemble his Cobb salad – iceburg lettuce topped with bacon, avocado, extra cheese… no tomatoes and top it all off with gobs of creamy ranch dressing. In our dichotomous thinking about food, salads are “good” and “healthy”. Have we deceived ourselves into believing that anything topping lettuce qualifies? It certainly seems like this would be a way to have our cake and eat it too… guilt-free. BUT, the proof is in the pudding…. Or in this case, our waistline. Here are some ways your salad may be inhibiting your weight loss efforts.


While the creamy dressings often come to mind first as high-calorie offenders, don’t forget about oil-based dressings, which can add literally hundreds of calories to your salad. It helps to know that one single tablespoon of almost any kind of vegetable oil—including olive and canola oils (aka “the good ones”)—contains approximately 120 calories. So adding a lot of oil-based dressing to your salad can add hundreds of calories to your salad too! AND, if you think you’re better off with fat-free dressing, guess again. These dressings don’t offer the benefits of fat that we do need from diet in small quantities and they make up for the lost flavor with sugar, salt and starch.

You don’t have to skip the dressing but try practicing some portion control – 1TBSP of dressing (the size of 3 thumbs) is plenty. Or, try this technique – get the dressing on the side then dip the tines of your fork in the dressing and load your forkful of salad. You’ll get the taste of the dressing without all the excess calories!


WThe average croutons are basically pieces of white bread that have been soaked in oil (which adds about 120 calories per tablespoon, remember) and then baked or toasted or even fried. So, a ½ cup serving could have as much as 200 kcal. Not to mention the added sodium.


Cheese, bacon bits, sesame seeds, nuts… you name it. Salad bars have everything these days. However, a little goes a long way. While cheese and nuts offer great nutrition benefits and help with satiety, 1oz of cheese and 1TBSP seeds adds 150 calories to your salad. It’s easy to see how things start to add up quickly. So, go easy on these items by adding just enough to give you the flavor – maybe 1-2tsp at most.


Various sources of animal and vegetarian proteins are often added to salads to make them entrees. While we need the protein to help satisfy hunger and provide energy and replace lost stores, be selective with your choices. Red meat, fried options, highly processed or dressed meats can turn a salad into a cardiologist’s worst nightmare. If you would like a main-meal salad with animal protein, consider grilled salmon, which is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids not to mention vitamin B12, vitamin D, and selenium.Even non-animal sources of protein can add more calories than one might realize. While cheese and nuts are healthy, practice caution around portion sizes. Another wonderful source of fiber, protein, and nutrients for your salad is beans. And, unlike most of the toppings mentioned above, beans and other legumes tend to be low in calories, thus packing a powerful nutritional punch for a relatively low caloric price.


On average, you want to get about 500-600 kcal at your meal and as we move through all these different salad bar items, it’s easy to see how they can all add up to over twice that… meaning you could be eating half your day’s intake in one sitting. Here are some helpful tips when it comes to portioning. Go heavy on the non-starchy, undressed veggies like greens, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots and cucumbers. Then be mindful of portions when you start adding on toppings like protein, dressing, croutons, etc. Once again, use your hand as a guide and select an amount of protein the size of the palm of your hand or roughly 3-4 ounces. Use high fat toppings sparingly or not at all and limit dressing to 1T total.

Artical Provided by: Metrowest Nutrition

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