6 Delicious Ways To Actually Keep Your Salad Healthy

In theory, salads should be the perfect, go-to healthy meal. But after adding a few handfuls of cheese, maybe some croutons, and some bacon or chicken—after all, you need protein—that low calorie, nutrient-filled meal is long gone.

Salad bars just make it so easy to get carried away. You make your way through option after option, getting a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and before you know it, your healthy lettuce base is just a vessel for a whole bunch of unhealthy toppings. Things like dried fruit, roasted nuts, peas/corn and fat-free dressings are sneaky, unhealthy items that add up, thanks to extra carbs, sugar and salt.

So, in the name of keeping salads as they should be, nutritious and delicious, here are a few salad toppers that you can enjoy atop your favorite mixed greens—excluding romaine lettuce for now (per recent recalls):

   1. Chickpeas: Whether you like them roasted and toasted, or fresh out of a can, chickpeas can be a great source of protein and fiber for your next salad. Also, their mild flavor goes with just about any salad variety or you can have fun by trying one of the many different flavored options, like barbecue and habanero.

   2. Seeds: Instead of going for nuts as the traditional source of crunch on salads, try opting for seeds instead. Whether its sunflower seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds or pumpkin seeds, you’ll enjoy added fiber and many other nutrients, too. For instance, sunflower seeds provide a boost of zinc and flax/chia seeds offer ample omega-3 fatty acids.

   3. Quinoa. Also known as a super grain, the real question is: when is quinoa not a great thing to eat? Thanks to its long list of nutrients—fiber, iron, lysine, magnesium, riboflavin, manganese and more—it is a perfect filler for any salad. Not only will it help you to feel fuller, it can also help to bump up your metabolic health and help with weight loss.

   4. Olives. When it comes to olives, people usually fall into one of two categories; either they love them or they hate them. But, in the name of good health, you may want to give these zesty, pickled fruits another try—did you know they’re actually a stone fruit? Not only are they super healthy with ample monosaturated fats, vitamin E and other antioxidants, there are tons of different options.

   5. Veggie spirals. While spiralized veggies, like zucchini and sweet potatoes, have become a huge hit with pasta lovers across the country, they’re also a great alternative for salad toppers, too. Who needs crispy noodles, right? So, even though it may feel like you’re just adding more veggies to the pile of veggies you already have, the texture of spiralized veggies helps to mix things up, while also keeping things healthy.

   6. Alternative dressings. Dressings are where most of us tend to get into trouble. It can be difficult to stick to just one serving, not to mention the creamy deliciousness of ranch that is often way more appealing than oil and vinegar. So, instead of doing the dressing dance and trying to decide which option to go with, opt for something entirely different, like hummus or guacamole to top your salad.

Food for thought.

While there’s no denying that salads are a great way to get an assortment of fruits, veggies and protein all in one easy meal, it’s easy to undermine this healthy option. Things like dried fruit, salted nuts, bacon bits, fat-free salad dressings, crispy tortilla strips and cheese may seem harmless, but they can add up quickly.

For more ideas on how to maintain a healthy diet, GMC’s Nutrition & Weight Management experts can provide the resources you need to make better food choices. Start feeling your best today by setting up a nutrition consultation.

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