Friday, November 13, 2015
Taco Salad is NOT a Salad
But what is IN your salad is more important. Having a bowl of just lettuce with some sugary salad dressing may be low cal, but you'll be starving in about two hours, for lack of healthy fat and protein.
Add TOO much fat in the form of mayo laced meats, or cheeses and you're in worst shape. I ate lunch with a friend who had this big cob salad with lots of dressing. I had a baked chicken breast, small baked potato, steamed veggies and a slice of lemon pie and we actually figured MY meal was less calories.
That taco salad? By the time you add up the fried shell, fried burger, cheese and dressing you could have had a lunch sized order of chicken fajitas with no cheese for less calories.
If you're eating in a chain restaurant, most publish nutritional content for their salads. Panera has some good salads, and you can order them without the chicken if you're eating vegetarian, many of them having quinoa or other grains to add protein.
I love their Asian Chicken salad, but have them leave off the fried wontons or I will order the Caesar and have them leave off the extra cheese and croutons.
But if you're going to make your own, here are some tips -
Use a blend of lettuce or a darker green. Iceberg has NO nutritional benefits. You might as well eat copy paper. Kale and Spinach make a nice addition to romaine.
Add protein in the form of lean chicken, veggie protein pieces (I love Gardein products which are made out of real food), beans or grains such as quinoa. If adding egg or avocado, do so in moderation. If it is fried, it has no business on top of your healthy salad.
If adding fruit, keep in mind your overall fruit consumption for the day, as fruit, though full of nutrients, also has calories and natural sugars, which you may be limiting. Just a few pieces adds texture and sweetness to a salad.
Keep dressing to a couple of tablespoons, serving it on the side if you get a restaurant serving, and just dipping your fork into it rather than pouring over the top of your salad.
If possible, use simple dressing made out of olive oil, lemon or balsamic vinegar and herbs. Most commercial salad dressing is junk and is almost always made out of vegetable oils that are NOT good for you.
If you want a little crunch to the top, forget the croutons or the fried Chinese Noodles - think roasted pumkin seeds or a chopped walnut or two.
Bread on the side - most restaurants serve their salad with bread. At Panera you can get an apple instead of bread, but if the bread comes out automatically, finish your salad before thinking about eating anything else. Chances are, with the right choices, you'll be full.