When it comes to healthy eating, it doesn’t get much better than a salad, right?
While salads can certainly be great options for health-conscious eaters, they aren’t always all that nutritious. Since salads are so versatile, you can add essentially anything to them to either contribute to their nutritional value or detract from it. So, to get the most out of your leafy greens, here are the healthiest ingredients to put in your salads and the ingredients to either leave out or only use sparingly.
A Variety of Leafy Greens
Although iceberg lettuce is a salad standard, don’t be afraid to mix things up and use a variety of mixed greens in your salad. When you do so, you’ll be adding valuable nutrients to an otherwise neutral salad base. Spinach, kale, mixed baby greens, and romaine lettuce are all good options.
Many people only think about putting vegetables in their salads, but you can really add some great flavor and nutrition with fresh fruit. Good fruits to add to your salad are apples, cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, and avocados. Experiment with different combinations of vegetables and fruits to see what you like the taste of together. Dried fruits, such as apricots, are also delicious on salads in addition to fresh fruits.
Nuts and Seeds
Small but mighty, nuts and seeds are healthy ingredients for salads because they add protein, crunch, and keep you feeling full for longer. These salad additions increase the calories of your salad, which is great for an energy boost. But just make sure not to add too many of them if you’re watching your weight. Nuts and seeds are healthier alternatives to croutons and crispy fried onions.
Lean or Meat-Free Proteins
You don’t need to eat a burger to get the protein your body needs. Salads are an easy way to sneak more protein into your diet, as long as you choose lean proteins that don’t ramp up your fat, calorie, and sodium intake. Consider adding fish, grilled chicken, or tofu to your salad instead of deep-fried or breaded protein options. Beans make salad additions too, especially if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet or are looking to cut calories.
Olive Oil and Vinegar for Dressing
Instead of creamy, calorie-filled, and fatty salad dressings, opt for simple extra virgin olive oil and vinegar for your salads. These healthier alternatives make your salad complete with a source of healthy fat and satisfying flavor.
Less Healthy Salad Ingredients to Skip
While all of the above suggestions are smart ideas to stock up for your salads in the new year, there are many other things that you should avoid adding or only put them in your salads on an occasional basis. Here are some examples of less healthy salad ingredients to rethink in your future meals:
- Crunchy tortilla strips
- Creamy salad dressings
- Fried chicken
- Excess cheese (just add a little for a healthy dose of dairy)
Aside from these ingredient recommendations, make sure to switch up your salad routine from time to time so you don’t get bored and resort to far less healthy options. Adding variety to your meals is one of the best parts about eating salad, so make a point to try new ingredient combinations to spice things up. We’d love to hear what your favorite healthy salad ingredients are, so please share your feedback with us in the comment section below.