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Is Your Salad Actually Healthy?

Summer and salads make a perfect match. A fresh, crisp salad is hard to beat when it comes to a healthy diet.

But your efforts can be sabotaged when high-cholesterol extras are added. If you pour on the bacon bits, cheese, and creamy dressings, you could end up with more calories than you’d get with a steak. And too much saturated fat and cholesterol can raise your heart disease risk.

Try these tasty tips from the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to keep your salad healthy:

Watch the dressing. Creamy dressings like ranch, blue cheese, and Thousand Island have 16 grams of fat and 150 calories in just two tablespoons. Choose low-calorie dressings instead. You can make your own slimmed-down, homemade vinaigrette using 1 part vegetable oil to 3 parts vinegar. In coleslaw, replace mayonnaise with a tangy, low-fat yogurt dressing.

Skip the high-fat extras. Instead of toppings high in fat, calories, and sodium—like bacon, blue cheese crumbles, grated cheese, crispy noodles, and croutons—get crunch and antioxidants from veggies. Add red cabbage, broccoli, beets, peas, bell pepper, or carrots. Try out nutrient-rich greens, like baby spinach, arugula, escarole, and romaine.

Try some fruit. Add flavor with heart-healthy fruit. Combine strawberries or blueberries with fresh spinach and raspberry vinaigrette. Top leafy lettuce with grapes; crisp, sliced apples; or roasted pears.

Make it hearty. For a filling, high-protein salad, add diced, skinless chicken or turkey. Or top with crabmeat, tuna, salmon, or low-fat cottage cheese. Garbanzo and kidney beans are another great way to boost the protein.

Last reviewed: July 2012

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© Krames StayWell 2012.