Salad is the universal symbol of dieting and healthy eating, and because of this, it may surprise some people to know that across the board people are preparing salads that are not near as healthy as they could and should be. There are five key factors that lead people to make a salad that, whilst on the surface seems healthy, is actually less so than you might imagine. This is why your salad isn't as healthy as it should be:
1. Lack of Variety of Greens
The stereotypical image of a diet salad obviously contains greens, but overwhelmingly the trend is to pack the salad full of romaine lettuce and not much else. Interestingly, a recent study of nearly half a million individual diets discovered that regular eating of a bigger variety of green vegetables contributed to a reduced risk of lung cancer. This is due to the high levels of antioxidants and nutrients in other greens, so next time you make up a salad, instead of using just lettuce add in a mixture of kale, spinach, green beans, even sprouts!
2. Too Much or Too Little Protein
Getting the right ratio of protein in a salad can sometimes be tricky. We need protein to boost metabolism and help build muscle and hormones, but a disproportionate amount can affect both of the spectrum in terms of both preventing weight loss or leading to weight gain depending on circumstances. Experts have agreed that the perfect amount of protein to include in your salad is roughly half a cup of plant-based (lentils, beans etc.) and 3 oz. of lean meat. Vegetarians can achieve the right protein levels by combining whole grain rice with, for example, a legume.
3. Not Enough Seasoning
A common reason given by people for not enjoying salads is that they are bland and flavorless. This is simply down to the fact that the salad has not been sufficiently and effectively seasoned. In these cases, people are often tempted to add unhealthy sauces or flavorsome cheese to a salad, but there are plenty of healthier options to give your salad a full and fantastic flavor. Taste can be increased using vegetable based pesto, garlic, lemon and lime and plenty of different herbs. These add flavor to the salad whilst keeping it healthy.
4. No Grain or Starch
It is really important to make sure you include plenty of grains or starches in your salad to compliment that healthy mixture of greens. Both grain and starch help to improve satiety (fullness), which will help to keep you filling fuller for longer and not craving more carbs between meals. Also, without ingredients like brown rice, yam or quinoa in your salad, your body will burn the protein ingredients more quickly before they are able to help repair tissue and assist in general bodily maintenance.
5. Using Too Much Fat, or the Wrong Kinds
Though it is seen as a bad word, fat is actually an essential part of our diets. It is vital in helping to structure our skin, cell membranes, brain and much more, but the problem is that the ‘low fat’ salad sauces and dressing that are so commonly used actually consume a much lower and more detrimental level of nutrients. Instead of falling for these well marketed ‘easy fix’ type salad dressing, you should be garnishing your salads with healthy, natural alternatives from organic ingredients. Fats from foods like nuts, seed, and avocado are all great.
Are you ready to tuck into a salad that is healthy and tasty now you know how much better you can make its construction?