Build the Perfect Salad

Build the Perfect Salad 

The perfect salad, with just the right combination of nutritious vegetables and filling protein, can be one of the healthiest meals you can eat.
The imperfect salad, on the other hand, can be a diet disaster. While some toppings just aren’t as good as their healthier counterparts, others can tack on hundreds of extra calories and unnecessary grams of sugar and fat, transforming your meal from power lunch to flab trap

Salad Base

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Iceberg lettuce
While not bad for you, it’s the least healthy of common salad bar lettuces. Its high water content makes for a low nutrient density. If you can’t skip it, mix it in with darker, healthier greens.
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Pick darker greens for the base. Spinach, on the greenest side of the spectrum, is bursting with vitamins and nutrients, like folate, which helps ward off mental decline, and beta-carotene, which helps protect your skin and eyes.
Mixed Greens
The diversity of leaves assures you a bowl filled with a wide variety of nutrients and active compounds. The delicate nature of these little lettuces, though, means they don’t hold up as well to heavy ingredients and dressings.
Compared with iceberg, romaine contains 3 times more folate, 6 times more vitamin C, and 8 times the beta-carotene. Makes a good, sturdy bed for more substantial salads.


Vegetable Toppings

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There are too many nutritionally superior vegetables at the salad bar to invest the calories on corn. Corn isn’t a definite no, but if you choose to use, make it a sparing amount.
Green peppers
They’re not bad for you per se, but they only have half the vitamin C as their red and yellow counterparts. If the other versions are available, what’s the point of going green?

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The scarlet crusaders help to lower blood pressure, maintain your memory, and fight cancer.
Red or Yellow Peppers
As said above, they have twice the amount of vitamin C as green peppers. Think of it this way: the more colorful your salad, the grater variety of nutrients you’ll take in.
Vitamin C, fiber, calcium, and few calories. Need we say more?
Alfalfa Sprouts
These feathery salad additions have a cache of vitamins unrivaled by nearly anything else you can put in your body. Get in the habit of topping off your salad with these.
Throw some on for lycopene, which has been linked to reduced risk of cancer and heart disease. Tomatoes also provide vitamins A, C, and K.
You’ll love them for their sweet crunch and their vision-boosting beta-carotene.



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Bacon’s gotten some bad press over the years, but one strip has only 40 calories and less than 200 milligrams of sodium. So a pinch of bacon bits is permissible; a handful, however, is not.
Hard-Boiled Eggs
Eggs aren’t bad for you, but there are better, healthier, less caloric alternatives. Then again, if you’re sick of chicken and it means the difference between eating a salad or opting for take-out, you can mix an egg with chickpeas, avocado and red peppers for the closest thing to salad perfection. Just don’t overdo it.
Avocados provide a ton of heart-healthy fats and a rich, creamy bite to any salad. But just because monounsaturated fats are good for your heart doesn’t mean they won’t still make you fat. Try to choose between avocados and nuts.
Yes, they are absolutely jacked with omega-3s and antioxidants, but they’re incredibly dense with calories. Keep it down to a tablespoon or two.
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Lean protein is the key to making filling salads, and none come much leaner than chicken. If you’re banking on the bird, thought, remember that a healthy portion is the size of a deck of cards.
Like all legumes, chickpeas bring to the table both protein and fiber, the sultans of satiety. Add to that a healthy dose of antioxidants and you have the makings of a salad-topping superstar.
Tuna fish on a salad, as opposed to tuna salad swimming in mayonnaise, will provide protein and heart-helping omega-3 fats without the heavy caloric price.



Not These!

Ranch/Blue Cheese/Caesar
The type of dressing you use is the single most important decision you make at the salad bar. These three represent the most destructive dressings, clocking in around 150 calories and 15 grams of fat per serving.
French/Catalina/Thousand Island
The trio of orange dressings are only marginally less problematic than their white counterparts. That’s because they’re based on low-grade oils and excess sugar. Expect at least 150 calories for 2 tablespoons of one of these.
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Oil and Vinegar
Your best bet, since you control the ratio. Slick your salad with equal parts oil and vinegar, but be sure to add only enough to lightly coat the greens.
Assuming the vinaigrette is based on olive oil, you’ll be getting a big dose of monounsaturated fats. Even so, since most vinaigrettes abide by the three parts oil to one part vinegar ratio, you’re still looking at 100 calories per serving.


Cheese Topping

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Shredded Cheddar
The worst cheese at the salad bar. Not only is it high in calories and sodium, but the minuscule shreds tend to bury themselves in the bowl, making portion control a challenge.
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Feta Cheese
A smarter pick than blue cheese, being that feta provides that same crumbly bite for fewer calories and less sodium. Still, only in moderation and only with a colorful crew of vegetables to back it up.
Blue Cheese
Delicious blue cheese comes at a caloric price. If you absolutely must have it, limit yourself to just one meat or other protein and load up on low-call veggies.


Not That!

Think of these oil-soaked, enriched flour cubes as salad bar grenades-they’ll blow your healthy salad away.

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Sunflower Seeds
One of nature’s finest sources of vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant that helps fight inflammation and lower cholesterol.
Raisins or Craisins
They’re fruit, yes, but they’re likely to be coated in sugar. Opt for fresh fruit whenever possible.

From Men’s Health Magazine

Chopped Salad

Serving Size : 4

2      heads            Romaine Lettuce, cut into 1/2″ pieces

1      can garbanzo beans

1      pound         cooked turkey breast, cut into 1/2″ pieces

4      oz                   mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2″ pieces

1                              cucumber, peeled and diced

4                              Roma tomatoes, diced


3      tbs                vinegar (balsamic, red wine, apple cider vinegar, etc.)

 1/2  cup                extra virgin olive oil

 1/2  tsp                each sea salt and freshly ground pepper

 2      tbs                Dijon mustard

1. Combine all salad ingredients and toss with salad dressing.

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