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Sneaky Ways Your Salads Are Stopping Weight Loss Dead In Its Tracks

Ah yes, if there ever was a diet food that was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, it’s the salad. Without question it’s the one meal option that can go from lean body friendly health food to gut busting bomb in the blink of an eye.

The culprit? Yep, you guessed it, all those calorie and fat dense extras that get piled on top. Even the so called “healthy condiments” can push your salad into the same caloric and fat totals as a cheeseburger and fries, sometimes worse.

In today’s post we’ll be discussing the sneaky ways your salad could be making you fat.

More after the jump…

Culprit #1: Shredded Cheeses

Sure there’s nothing wrong with a little shredded cheese on top of your salad as hard cheeses are low in carbs, but you’ve got to pay attention to the amount. The calories and fat can add up in a hurry.

Consider that a mere half-cup of shredded cheese contains approximately 20 grams of fat and over 200 calories. It’s easy to go overboard with the cheese. Instead of “dumping” cheese onto your salad, use a couple of “pinches” to sprinkle on top. This will give you some nice added flavor while ensuring you won’t overdo it.

Culprit #2: Croutons

No surprises here, but loading up on croutons is another sure-fire way to push your salad over the top. Personally, I’m a proponent of using light nuts and seeds to add some crunch to my salads, but if you’re going to use croutons, it’s advisable to measure out a serving size.

Just know that approximately 10 croutons contains around 50 calories, 2 grams of fat, and 5 carbs. A little goes a long way.

Culprit #3: Crispy Noodles

Yeah, these taste good but they provide almost zero nutritional benefit to your salad. A half cup serving contains approximately 130 calories and 5 grams of fat. Once again you’re better off with light nuts or seeds to add some crunch to your salad. Another option is water chestnuts, which contain no fat and only a handful of calories.

Culprit #4: Fried or breaded chicken

Did you really think that “Southern Chicken Salad” with fried chicken strips would be a weight loss friendly meal? You already know the low-down on this one. Keep the chicken and lean proteins grilled for your salad.

Culprit #5: Dried Fruits

If there ever was a healthy food gone bad, it’s raw fruits that have been dried out. You lose out on all the enzymes and phytonutrients, while getting a condensed serving of sugar. A mere 1/3 cup of dried cranberries for example provides 130 calories and over 30 grams of carbs from sugars.

If you want to add some fruit to your salad, choose the real deal in it’s natural state. For example, a half an apple chopped up would add only about 40 calories to your salad and a small amount of carbs.

Culprit #6: Candied Nuts

Yes, nuts and seeds are best consumed in their natural, raw state. You want to use some dry roasted sunflower seeds that’s one thing, but for heaven’s sake avoid any and all candied nuts. A 1/4 cup of candied pecans for example contains 190 calories and 17 grams of fat.

Culprit #7: Creamy Dressings

Without question, dressing are the most likely culprit to blowing up your salad. Regardless of the dressing you choose, always get it on the side if you’re eating out. Personally I prefer extra-virgin olive oil and raw apple cider vinegar dressing (Bragg’s apple cider vinegar with the “mother” is best).

Just know the calories and fat adds up fast with any dressing, even when using olive oil. A tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories and 14 grams of fat. You can see why it’s best to “drizzle” your salad and not “pour” on top.

Creamy dressings add up fast as well so you’re best to measure out. A two tablespoon serving of ranch dressing contains 150 calories and about 16 grams of fat.

Culprit #8: Extra nuts, seeds, or avocado

Using nuts, seeds, and things like avocado are great ways to add some extra caloric density and healthy fats to your salads which help keep you full, but you’ve got to go light. These are all dense foods which add a lot of fat in small amounts. Once again a little goes a long way.

Be wary of ordering salad entrees at popular chain restaurants…

I’m not looking to single any particular restaurants out here, but chain restaurant salads are notorious for being calorie and fat ladened bombs. Consider the following:

TGI Friday Salads

Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad
1080 calories, 71 grams fat, 76 grams carbs

Chipolte Yucatan Chicken Salad
850 calories, 69 grams of fat, 46 grams of carbs

Applebee’s Salads

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
820 calories, 57 grams of fat, 25 grams of carbs

Fiesta Chicken Chopped Salad
850 calories, 42 grams of fat, 79 grams of carbs

Bruschettta Chicken Salad
1110 calories, 66 grams of fat, 67 grams of carbs

O’Charley’s Salads

California Chicken Salad
684 calories, 36 grams of fat, 47 grams of carbs

Calypso Spinach Salad
1062 calories, 66 grams of fat, 74 grams of carbs

Pretty safe to say you’re not losing weight with these salads!

The calorie, fat, and carb totals on a lot of these salads are mind blowing. Many of these totals don’t even include the dressing which would push the totals higher.

When looking to lose weight and dining out, you’re much better off opting for a “lean and green” entree of grilled protein of some sort and veggies. In all fairness, many of these restaurants offer low calorie or “Weight Watchers” portions so just browse the menu to find better choices.

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How to best utilize salads in part of your weight loss plan…

Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE salads as a staple in any weight loss plan. For that matter, they should be a staple in anyone’s diet who’s looking to stay lean and healthy. When done right, salads are a great way to provide a boatload of nutrients and antioxidants.

Here’s the key….make your salads with lots of mixed greens (the greener the better) and load up on a wide variety of fresh veggies first. Look to get flavor by combining a wide variety of vegetables instead of loading up on cheeses, bacon, crispy noodles, etc.

Once you’ve built your salad with the foundation (greens and veggies), then proceed to add some lean protein if you’re looking for some extra density. Finally, use the “condiments” in moderation to top it off, but go very light just to add some extra texture or flavor.

Remember leafy greens and most vegetables are very low in calories and carbs. These are pretty neutral foods from a calorie standpoint, while they provide a ton of nutrients.

What gets you in trouble is all the “extras” from even so called healthy foods like nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, etc.

Go easy my friends and look to “sprinkle, drizzle, and pinch” and not “pile on, pour, or dump.”

That’s the best piece of advice I can provide unless you want to meticulously measure everything out.

Just know that while salads are great, they can turn on you in a hurry if you start piling on too many of the extras.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts provides fitness consulting in Charleston with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation. See our success stories from numerous Lowcountry residents then sign up for a no-obligations consultation today.

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Category: Nutrition.