Don’t Sabotage Your Healthy Salad

healthy salad
Salads have long been hailed as a classic “healthy” food, but they often can be a dietary disaster if they are loaded with hidden sources of fat and sugar, despite their leafy green base. Restaurants often disguise their fattiest salads under the “lite” category option, simply serving up a smaller portion of their standard sized salad. Whether ordering out or making your salad at home, keep in mind these top culprits that can sabotage your healthy meal, and what to swap them out with instead!

Dried Fruit

While dried cranberries or mango strips can be tasty, the added sugar and oil in most dried fruits make them more caloric and less healthy. For natural sweetness, try instead adding fresh grapes, apple slices, pineapple, or blueberries for filling fiber with less sugar.

Bacon Bits

Unfortunately for bacon lovers, these little morsels of processed meat should be avoided at all costs according to the Institute for Cancer Research, as there is evidence that they significantly increase the risk for colorectal cancer. To attain the same satiating bite, opt for roasted chickpeas, beans, or tempeh.


When choosing proteins, beware of glazed salmon or chicken. In most cases, a syrupy glaze adds excess sugar, salt, and fat to an otherwise healthy protein source. Instead, look for seasonings like lemon or ginger zest, or add Mandarin orange wedges atop your protein. The best option to simply get your protein grilled.


These popular toppers may add aesthetic appeal and provide a satisfying crunch, but are typically just empty calories. Rather than buying ready-made croutons, whip up some of your own by toasting a slice of whole grain bread, then crumble it into small pieces. Sprinkle some nutritional yeast on top, and you have a crunchy, fiber-rich option.

Fat-Free Dressing

Many people mistakenly think fat-free equates to a healthier option. Unfortunately, manufacturers make up for taste by adding in extra salt, sugar or unhealthy additives—which can usually add up to even more calories than going with a smaller drizzle of the full-flavor, full-fat version.

Creamy Dressing

While fuller fat versions can sometimes be a healthier choice than their low-fat counterparts when used in smaller servings, many creamy dressings can be full of unhealthy saturated fats and calories. They may also contain many chemical ingredients, sugars and additives—so always read the label. For smooth, rich texture, try topping your salad with healthy-fat avocado, or stirring in hummus or Greek yogurt to a batch of DIY dressing for added nutrition.

So eating your leafy greens is fantastic—just be sure your “add-ons” are not sabotaging your healthy meal.
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