Thursday, August 7, 2008

Debunking the Bunk - Salad

Wait, what? Salad? You're kidding, right? Salad's always been good for you!

This week I'm turning the tables - foods that everything thinks that are great for you, that really aren't always. And up first is salad. Ok, not salad per se, but salad dressing and salad toppings. You can't go wrong with veggies, whether it be lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, flowers, dried fruit, fresh fruit, etc.

But where I see people go wrong is on all those toppings and especially the salad dressing. I can't even tell you how many times I've seen this very scenario: coworker/friend/random person is talking about how they want to lose x amount of pounds for x event (usually it's a wedding or something). So they switch to eating salads every meal, cut out all carbs, and basically give their diet a bland make-over. You already know how I feel about restrictive diets. But whenever I see someone revert to salads and cold cuts (no bread) for lunch, I can practically count down the days until it's back to pizza.

Here's the problem with salad dressing - first of all it's made out of oil, vinegar, and sugar (with other spices and additives added in), or even worse, cream. Now, we've learned that oil is good for you, but it's really all about moderation. But the pesky little thing about oil that most of us forget is that while it does raise your good cholesterol, one serving is one tablespoon and 120 calories. So the majority of the calories in the salad are coming from the dressing, especially if that bottle is getting upended and squirted to cover every last inch of the lettuce. Plus, add in the nuts (again, good fat, but only if used in moderation), bacon bits, cheese, croutons, fried chicken etc.

And because it's a salad, we're likely to eat more of it, and then have dessert or a nice yummy sugary treat later to reward ourselves for being so virtuous in eating that salad.

Now, don't get me wrong, salads are a great idea, and we shouldn't eat less of them. But adding a variety of flavors to the salad will cut down the need to have too much dressing (purple cabbage is a great option because it's so flavorful and looks so pretty), and adding lots of pretty colors also helps satisfy the eye-stomach link too (if it doesn't look tasty, then we're less likely to be satisfied with it, right?). One suggestion: spinach or mesclun salad with purple cabbage, red peppers, some walnuts, and some dried cranberries. And here's my favorite dressing that I use most of the time (having the vinegar in there definitely helps the moderation because too much makes my mouth pucker, but just a couple T is awfully tasty):

1 part olive oil
1 part balsamic (white or dark) / or lemon juice
dollop of dijon mustard
salt and pepper


WeightingGame said...

I'd say I chow on salad at least four nite a week. My fave: lots of veggies (peapods, brocolli, beets, mushrooms, peppers, corn, artichoke hearts - mind you, this is in a perfect world, I don't have all these things stocked at all times) plus a big phat slab of grilled salmon and a little low-fat cheese. YUM. Baked sweet potato on the side, please.

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Oooh, that sounds yummy! Peapods are one of my faves. I like a sprinkle of cheese (parmesan or cheddar or goat cheese or really, well, just about anything) too. Once I topped some mesclun and nasturtiums with basil shrimp and ooooh, now I want some more...

Usually I eat a lot of salads during the summer, but haven't this year for some reason.

Missicat said...

Yum....salads. Thanks for the dressing recipes, the yummy creamy dressings have always been my downfall!

Charlotte said...

I always take my salads "naked" to avoid this kind of thing. I swear I am the worst person to eat out with ("Um, I'll have the chicken tortilla salad but no chicken and no tortillas, cheese, or sour cream. Dressing on the side. Kay thanks.") But a homemade salad like Leslie's? Awesome!

MizFit said...

I LOVE IT AND YOU SO NAILED IT with your "I can practicallycount the days" remark.

consistency, People.
lets set ourselves up for lifelong success ;)