Found on EatClean.com and written by Caroline Praderio for Prevention.com
Just because you’re eating something called a “salad” doesn’t mean it’s actually healthy. For proof, take a look at big restaurant chains, which have somehow figured out how to create entrée salads with 1,000 calories and 50 grams of sugar. But even homemade salads or those ones you concoct yourself at the Whole Foods salad bar can go astray if you’re not careful about the ingredients you choose and which add-ins you toss on top.
Use these 8 tips to maximize nutrition and minimize health risks in your next bowl of veggies.
1. Add eggs.
New research from Purdue University shows that the fat found in egg yolks can help you absorb 500% more carotenoids—antioxidants that may reduce risk of certain eye diseases and cancers—than just eating veggies alone.
2. Mix those greens.
A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that the antioxidants in green lettuces start neutralizing free radicals more slowly than red lettuces, which have a markedly faster antioxidant effect. Mixing both colors could provide the best and longest-lasting protection against free radical damage.
3. Put kale in its place.
Kale is super trendy, but that doesn’t mean the veg is nutritionally superior to every other frilly lettuce. In fact, kale ranked well below several other greens, including watercress, Chinese cabbage, chard, beet greens, spinach, and even humble romaine, in a CDC analysis of essential nutrient density. Use kale because you like the taste, not because you think it’s healthier than all the rest.
4. Make your own dressing—seriously.
Not only is homemade dressing absurdly easy to make and infinitely customizable, it’s also the easiest way to avoid the excess sugar andchemical emulsifiers linked to weight gain in recent research and found in abundance in store-bought bottles. (Check out these easy salad dressing combos you’ll love.)
5. Swap croutons for nuts.
Every salad needs a little crunch, but packaged croutons, while often lower in calories than nuts, are almost always made from crappy refined flour that’s short on micronutrients and fiber. A handful of nuts, on the other hand, has both, along with healthy fat and protein to give your salad more staying power.
6. Don’t fear full-fat cheese.
Two new studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that full-fat dairy was actually beneficial: In one, people who ate full fat dairy had a 23% reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to people who opted for reduced-fat or fat-free dairy. Full-fat cheeses, especially stinky varieties like blue and gorgonzola, also pack more taste, allowing you to use less.
7. Nix raw sprouts.
Yes, they’re nutritionally sound, but sprouts also pose a big food safety risk—there’s been at least one major sprout recall every year since 1995, according to the FDA. Replicate their delicate crispness with a different veggie, like snap peas.
8. Pick pomegranate over cranberry.
Raisins and dried cranberries are a popular salad add-on, but they come at a cost, with up to 40 grams of sugar in every half cup. Opt for fresh fruit like sliced grapes or pomegranate arils instead—a half cup of either delivers only 12 grams of sugar.