It’s sad but true, your salad habit may be backfiring on you. Like the words natural, fresh, fat-free, sugar-free, and organic, salad is often instantly associated with healthy. Unfortunately, our waistlines are paying for it.
The prevailing assumption is when you swap a burger or fried food for a salad, you have to come out ahead. But do we really come out ahead? It depends.
When I first started researching the nutrition information of my favorite meals in 2008, the calorie content of a typical Chick-fil-a salad without dressing, it rocked my world. It was then that I began to realize that salads aren't always what they are cracked up to be.
The bottom line: What your put in your salad matters. Before you eat another salad, check out my “diet derailer” list.
7 Salad Toppings that are Sabotaging Your Diet
1. Bacon Bits:
We already know bacon isn't the healthiest food but when you're eating a plate full of lettuce it's easy to reason that a little won't hurt :). 2 tablespoons is ‘only’ 50 calories. The challenge is it’s easy to get carried away with bacon bits! Before you know it, you can easily rack up 3-4 tablespoons pushing the total to 75-100 calories.
Tam’s Tip: If you love bacon (like I do), add 1 level tablespoon to your salad and stop there or skip it altogether and top with turkey instead.
2. Croutons: 10 garlic croutons weigh in at 100 calories. Not only that, croutons are refined carbohydrates (a food group we'd like to minimize) and are often high in sodium. Like bacon bits, they are hard to portion control; easily contributing 150-200 calories per salad.
Tam’s Tip: Crumble up two small multi-grain crackers, sprinkle them over your salad and save about 75 calories.
3. Creamy Dressings: Our favorites - Blue cheese, Thousand Island, French, Ranch, Honey Mustard and Caesar - taste great but pack a whopping 60-80 calories per teaspoon! And let’s face it, add little here and a little more there and next thing you know you’re at 180-240 calories easy.
Tam’s Tip: Use a small amount of extra-virgin olive oil with balsamic vinaigrette instead. If you aren't ready to part with your fav just yet, look for the fat-free salad version and aim for <5g of sugar per serving. Or dip your fork in the full fat version and drizzle it over the salad to lessen the damage.
4. Fried Protein: It’s easy to convince ourselves that forgoing fries and a bun in the drive-thru makes the fried chicken salad a reasonable indulgence…until you consider that a ½ cup of fried chicken strips is a shocking 190 calories. Fried shrimp is even worse at 274 calories per ½ cup.
Tam’s Tip: If you really want the fried chicken sandwich, you may be better off eating it! A Chick-fil-a Chicken Sandwich on wheat with no butter will run you approximately 400 calories, the same as the Cobb Salad without any dressing!
5. Cheddar cheese: Get this - just a ½ cup of cheddar cheese, the amount added to many large restaurant salads, contains 18 grams of fat and 225 calories!
Tam’s Tip: Substitute cheddar with a ½ cup crumbled feta cheese and save 135 calories, even more if you find a low fat version.
6. Tortilla Shells: While the exact numbers vary by brand, one large taco salad shell could contain anywhere from 250-400 calories. To make matters worse, more than half of those calories may come from fat and account for as much as one-third of your daily fat allowance.
Tam’s Tip: Eat only half the shell (or less) and skip the high fat ingredients like ground beef and sour cream.
7. Craisins: Craisins, a term used to describe dried cranberries, add a delightful flavor to salads but contain both added sugar and oil. Like raisins, craisins are very high in calories because of they have a high sugar content. One forth cup is 130 calories and an incredible 33 grams of carbohydrates, of which 29 grams (the equivalent of 7 teaspoons) are sugar.
Tam’s Tip: Save major calories by swapping craisins for fresh fruit like apple slices or strawberries.
So how did you do? Do you have some opportunities to improve? If you do, here’s my advice: remember small changes can make a big difference. You don't need to give up all of the above. Just modify your salad content so that it aligns with your goals.
Ever wonder why you find yourself staring at the same problem over and over again? You are not alone. It's not at all uncommon, in fact it's almost inevitable. Allow me to explain.
Back in my days as a corporate trainer, I taught this course about the fundamentals of selling. One of the key principles I taught was "the past predicts the future." The concept was simple: Ask questions about the what and the why of customer's past buying decisions, because chances were that the very same drivers and motivations would play a role in their present buying decisions. It seemed that 9 times out of 10 that was exactly the case. I was in my mid 20s then and didn't quite understand the profound nature of what I was teaching. Now with another 14 years of life experience under my belt, I get it, I really get it.
It's so much easier to keep doing what we've always been doing. After all, things seem to be working out okay... until they don't. Then one day you look up and wonder "how did I get here?" You resolve to do differently by putting in place some new systems (that killer new meal plan or workout regimen) and routines (I'll plan and prepare my meals on Sundays and track with MyFitnessPal), but you keep finding yourself back at the same place over and over again. It's frustrating. You hate it. But you feel powerless to change it. I have good news: you can change it, if you are willing to change.
All human beings, regardless of race, ethnicity, educational background, financial status, or religion, have a common tendency: to act out of habit. Sure we deliberate over some decisions, but more often than not, we just do what we do without even thinking about it. Most of the time that works out okay and we keep doing it. But what about when it doesn't work out okay? There are some patterns in our lives that we cannot afford to repeat. There are some things that have allowed to enslave us that we must break free of. We know this pattern is sabotaging our success. We know it's holding us back from all that we were born to be and achieve. But how do we go from where we are now, to where we want to be? Choose the hard over the easy.
It's easy to say things are going to be different. It's easy to set goals. It's easy to acquire tools and resources that better position you for success. But if you don't take the time, to dissect your past decisions the outcome will eventually and assuredly be the same. You've got to choose the hard over the easy.
It's hard to look back on our past and have the courage to acknowledge the thought processes and habits that no longer serve us. But that is where the magic happens.
Take the time to remember and understand your mistakes or face the inevitable: you will habitually and subconsciously repeat them. Choosing the hard over the easy; that is what sets us free.
coach tam's Blog
40-something who loves food, fitness, and fun!