Many of you are, like me, busy professionals, who often grab lunch on the go. “What’s fast?” “What’s handy?” are uppermost in our minds when it comes to deciding where to go or what to chose. My “go-to” lunch choice is always a salad. But, “lettuce” be frank. All salads are not created equal. Many salads at popular lunch spots are shockingly high in calories and fat. They’re absolutely not the healthy choices you think they are. Here are my simple suggestions for building a healthy, great tasting salad.
Step #1 – Give iceberg lettuce the cold shoulder. Chose nutrient-dense darker greens as your salad base. Kale, spinach, arugula, and romaine — or a mix of baby greens – are all smart low-calorie choices. A cup of kale or romaine lettuce, for example, contains only 8 calories, and it provides 21 to 25 percent of your daily vitamin C needs, and 125 to 150 percent of your vitamin K requirements.
Step #2 – Energize those leafy greens with a protein-powered serving of grilled chicken breast, salmon, tuna, cottage cheese, turkey or a half-cup of chickpeas or other beans.
Step #3 – Boost the fiber and the flavor with chopped raw veggies, like broccoli, cucumber, carrots and tomatoes – whatever looks fresh and appealing. Consider adding a quarter of an avocado, some strawberries or blueberries. Make sure to mix it up each day so you don’t get bored.
Step #4 – Beware the dressings; the croutons; the bacon bits; the cheeses, the deli meats. There’s no faster way to derail a “well-built” salad than with these last minute extras that weigh you down. Instead of fattening creamy dressings, I’ve been experimenting with fabulous flavored vinegars – like Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar. If you’re at a restaurant and not a salad bar, don’t hesitate to ask the staff to build a salad your way. A happy customer is Job 1 for most places.
Of course, we all know that losing weight is a numbers game. 3,500 calories equals one pound of body weight. By swapping the burger, the fried fish sandwich or the chicken tenders for my salad scenario, you could save nearly 2000 calories a week. And, speaking of a smart swap – giving up sugary sodas (and yes, even diet sodas) for water….puts you well on your way to losing more than 1/2 pound a week. Small changes with big impact. Enjoy!