5 Mistakes You’re Making When It Comes to Salad

Salad, the typical go-to seemingly healthy meal of choice when you’re trying to stick to clean eating. But, there are so many ways to sabotage your seemingly healthy meal of choice with not-so-good-for-you ingredients and add-ons. For instance: piling on loads of cheese and croutons, or dousing your greens in fat-free dressing.

Avoiding both of those are certainly smart moves. But they aren’t the only things that can stop you from getting the most out of your bowl o’ greens. Here, five more mistakes you didn’t even know you were making.

  1. You pick the lowest-calorie salad on the menu.

Chances are you’re picking the greens over a burger because you want to keep it light. Still, there is such a thing as going too far. A 250-calorie salad might seem extra virtuous, but it probably won’t be enough to actually keep you satisfied. Which means that in an hour or two, you’ll probably be scrounging around for something else to eat. So go for a salad that’s more substantial. Depending on your calorie needs and how active you are, that probably means somewhere in the range of 400 to 600 calories.

  1. You always go with romaine.

It’s definitely not a bad choice. Two cups of shredded romaine lettuce pack more than a day’s worth of vitamin A, plus small amounts of fiber, folate, and potassium. But it’s always a good idea to aim for variety by swapping your usual lettuce for other greens—like baby spinach, kale, shredded Brussels sprouts, or red or green cabbage. They all provide vitamins and minerals in different amounts, so mixing it up ensures you get the most out of all of them.

  1. You skimp on protein.

Temped to do just veggies in an effort to save calories? Don’t. Protein is the thing that keeps you full—and takes your salad from healthy snack to actual meal. You can still pick lean sources, like chicken or turkey, salmon or tuna, tofu or tempeh, or beans. In general, most women should try to work 21 to 28 g of protein into their salad, while men should aim for 35 to 42 g. But the more active you are, the more protein you need. So those numbers could be higher.

  1. You go nuts with the healthy fats.

Nuts and seeds, avocado, olive oil, and the like are all crazy good for you. But piling them into your bowl makes it easy to turn your modest salad into the caloric equivalent of a chimichanga. So how much is too much? Aim for 1 to 2 servings of healthy fats per salad. And remember, that includes an oil-based dressing. If you add avocado and nuts, then have plain lemon juice or plain balsamic vinegar as your dressing.

  1. You give yourself permission to load up on crap afterwards.

After all, you only had a salad, right? The point of eating a salad is to fill your body with good stuff—not trick yourself into thinking that since you ate a such a clean meal, it’s basically fine to junk after. If you feel like having dessert, great! Go ahead and treat yourself. Just not to the point where you end up canceling out all the benefits of the stuff you just ate. A square of dark chocolate or a cookie is OK—an entire bar or box is overkill.

“5 Mistakes You’re Making When It Comes to Salad”, Written for Vertex Fitness Personal Training Studio by Ashvini Mashru, RD

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