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Mucking up a good thing – common salad mistakes


Few things stress us out more than trying to figure out what the hell it is we want to eat for lunch. Or dinner. Or something in between.

For the majority of the office workers across the world, the usual go-to, fallback option on the lunch menu is the salad.

It’s the healthy option. Perfect for a diet and for dropping a dress size of two.

Or so we think.

Problem is that, if we aren’t careful, a lot of our salads end up being nutritional disasters waiting to happen.

A good salad will fill you up, keep you satisfied, supply plenty of fiber and nutrients and proteins while helping you reach summer bathing suit season-ready. But on the flip side, these green bowls of health are turned into a calorie bomb with way too much fat and sugar.

McDonalds Salad

Let’s not commit salad suicide. Here are a few mistakes you need to avoid when you order your next lunch:

Go easy on (or HOLD) the cheese – It’s usually one of the first things that we toss in the mix. But the probably is that it tends to be loaded with fat and can really spike the calorie content of your salad. A little cheese is okay. Enough cheese for the pizza makers at Domino’s to envy you is not. Just a quarter-cup of the stuff can run you 100 calories.

Instead, opt for an alternative like nutritional yeast (NOT the same stuff you use in baking). It’s sold as a food product and really adds a nice cheesy taste without the calories. It even packs some vitamins and minerals.

Crunching on way too many croutons – It starts by simply adding the little nuggets of crunchy goodness to your bowl of greens. And it ends with enough bread to basically equal the carb content of a sandwich. Croutons are pieces of bread baked in oil. Which means not only do they pack on carbs, they add unnecessary fat. If you are looking for a crunch, opt for things like nuts and seeds. Yes, those also carry fats, but of the healthier variety.

Drowning in a sea of dressing – Look carefully at the nutritional label on your bottle of salad dressing next time you opt for globbing on more of the wet stuff. Most of them are just literally loaded with calories and crap that you’d never be able to pronounce. This is probably the biggest salad sin of all and one that we must break free of in order to return to nutritional salad bliss. A few tips: stay away from the creamy versions and opt for the lighter, oil-based dressings (like a vinaigrette). Best practice to implement here: just make your own. I like mixing 1 teaspoon of olive oil with 1 teaspoon of a vinegar (balsamic works wonders) … stir it up with a little dijon mustard and a drop or two of stevia. Boom. Instant vinaigrette that is 10X better than the crap in the grocery aisles.

Pick your proteins carefully – Don’t toss in some buffalo fried chicken pieces and then tell me it’s good source of protein (I’m looking at you, Applebee’s and Chili’s and all of you so-called food establishments). We want real, whole, natural protein sources like lean poultry or beef or fish. Sure, you can even opt for a fattier fish or even a nice steak (just watch the rest of the fat content that goes into the salad to avoid adding a ton of calories). If you are going the vegetarian route, look to things like chickpeas and black beans to add a dose of proteins. Don’t ruin your salad with the wrong kind of protein … and yes, that means those “bacon bits” are off limits, too.

Go green with the RIGHT greens – Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way and clear it up once and for all: iceberg lettuce sucks. It carries mostly water and has very few nutrients. It won’t fill you up and will do nothing but add a little crunch to your life. We need a good dose of greens that will add value to your day. So, steer clear of the watery junk and aim for varieties like kale, spinach, romaine and arugula. I like to grab a little bit of each to spice things up. And, again, if you are looking for that crunch, see the point above about adding a few nuts and seeds.

Don’t get caught in the salad trap at your next lunch order. Load up with the RIGHT nutrients and the right combinations to give you that nutritious punch you need.

You’ll likely find that by following a few of the recommendations above, you’ll be much more satisfied throughout the day and may even have a better jolt of energy to get your through those post-lunch hangovers.

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Pete Cataldo is a former television sports anchor that has taken his passion for fitness and turned it into his career. As a Certified Fitness Trainer, Certified Turbulence Trainer and Precision Nutrition Certified Coach, Pete is an expert in helping clients burn fat, lose weight and get in the best shape of their lives.
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