The Two Faces of Salads
One of the most versatile foods that pairs so well with Spring and calorie watching are salads. The recipes are endless and so all encompassing. Think about it, name a vegetable, fruit, grain, legume, fowl, seafood, or meat, and odds are there is a salad for that. Another great advantage of salads is that more likely than not, they will be made of fresh items. And finally, they tend to be healthier for you, providing good vitamins and nutrients, lower fat and calories, and high dietary fiber.
STOP THE PRESSES! Salads can be dangerous to your health! They are loaded with calories, fat, and cholesterol. Yes, like all other foods,the claims are true, if we turn these wonderful salads into a hodgepodge of everything we can find in the fridge to pile onto our plates. All too often, we Americans tend to go overboard when putting together a salad and end up with high fat and high cholesterol dressings, high sodium processed cheeses and meats, all served in a large bowl as opposed to a dinner plate. The end result is a total defeat of why we had a salad instead of Mac n Cheese or Lasagna. We end up consuming nearly 1,000 calories, not to mention the saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol we were trying to avoid.
Salads are great for all of us; however, we must take into account several factors in order to maintain the "goodness" integrity. First, serve your portions on a plate as opposed to a bowl. This will ensure measured quantity, thereby controlling the amount consumed. There is certainly where size does matter, smaller is better. Second, stay with fresh and non packaged ingredients when putting together your salad. Processed goods like cold cuts are loaded with sodium, more dangerous than cholesterol to your health in the opinions of many. Read the package of sliced ham or turkey the next time you're in the store and be prepared for a shock! It is better to roast your own chicken or saute your own beef strips as you will have more control over sodium and flavor.
Finally, the third thing to take into account when preparing a healthy salad deserves its own paragraph as it is far and away the greatest culprit in how bad for your health things can be. Think hard before you decide what dressing you are going to pour over your salad and how much you will use. Your dressing will contain most of the bad ingredients including most of the fat and saturated fat, bad cholesterol, sodium, and sugars. Be energetic and adventurous and make your own dressing. Doing so gives you total control over everything! You can control quantity by pouring your dressing into all the salad servings, tossing the salad, and then serving it in individual dinner plates as opposed to individually pouring it into each dish. Pouring the dressing onto your own serving will most likely double the quantity you would otherwise need, hence double the calories. And if you just can't do without that Thousand Island or Blue Cheese dressing, dilute it a bit with water before pouring. You'll use a lot less of it without sacrificing flavor.
Pictured above is a Roasted Chicken Breast Salad served with a Dijon style dressing of olive oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, and pepper. The fat contained in this dressing is healthy and the mustard enriches the flavor without fat, sodium, or cholesterol. The salad itself contains:
Bib or Boston Lettuce (Butter lettuce)
Diced fresh garlic
Sliced roasted chicken breast
2 sliced medium fresh mushrooms
6 diced Kalamato olives
Notice that nowhere in this recipe (salad or dressing) does it call for salt. The reason is that the olives provide the salt you need for flavor enhancement. Served with a nice loaf of olive bread, this entree is perfect for lunch and will satisfy all the while being very healthy for you. Play with the ingredients, substituting some for your favorite ones. Just be careful and conscientious of what you use so as to keep it healthy.
During the next six months of Spring and Summer, if you consume 3 salads as part of your 14 lunches and dinners each week, you will eat about 1,500 fewer calories each week. That's 39,000 fewer calories over the next six months! Now that's food for thought.