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Salads – Rabbit Food No More
At home many people avoid making salads because the cutting up of vegetables takes time and often storage of a half used cucumber or bag of carrots is inappropriate causing waste and unnecessary expense. To save time, why not just pick up prewashed, cut-up salads or salad green available pre-packaged at most grocery stores.
When choosing salad greens remember that the darker green the leaf, the more beta-carotene (an antioxidant). Spinach contains the most beta-carotene. For lettuce, try romaine, which has the most vitamins and minerals of all lettuces. Other options include Belgian endive, butterhead lettuce, collard greens, curly endive, escarole, kale, radicchio, red leaf lettuce and watercress. Lettuce also contains potassium, fiber, and vitamins C and A. The standard "iceberg" lettuce has the least nutritional value (but it is not true that it has NO nutritional value, it does contain folic acid, although the same amount of romaine lettuce has twice the amount).
Add protein to your salad with a light sprinkling of soy nuts, soy-bacon bits, or sunflower seeds. Top off the salad with chopped vegetables such as onions, peppers, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, or tomatoes. Also you can add shredded, low-fat cheese or thinly sliced lean meat. These too, can be cut up one night when you feel energized and put in storage bags for the rest of the week.
Salad dressing can make or break the salad. Salt and pepper or another spice may be sufficient to bring all the tastes together for a great salad. You can also just use olive oil and vinegar or salsa or one of the many low-fat dressing available at the store. Here is one “discovery” that I made that has helped me with trying to eat “limp” salads. We all like those spices that they put in olive oil for dipping our bread. However, you can find these dry “dipping spices” at many grocery stores. I discovered that about 1-2 capfuls of olive oil and then some of these spices put on the salad really helped the taste. Rather than putting the dressing on the salad before eating, ask or use the dressing "on the side". If you dip your fork into the dressing and then put the salad on your fork, you still get the taste that you desire, but with far fewer total calories. You can make your own salad dressing by taking low-fat yogurt or low-fat mayonnaise and adding spices such as !
dried onion, parsley, thyme, garlic powder or pepper.
Eating Salads Out:
Even the most health-conscious eaters often have little choice and grabbing a meal at a fast-food restaurant is easy. Most of us at least think about eating healthy and have been told that a salad is a much better choice than a burger. Naturally, then, our eyes go first to the salad selections on the menu, which the marketers have promoted as bursting with not only flavor but healthful ingredients. How bad could a salad be? Actually pretty bad if you make the wrong choice.
Take for instance the Arby’s Chicken Club Salad®. This healthy-sounding selection packs 530 calories and 33 grams of fat, and that is before you add the buttermilk ranch dressing. That would bring the total to 860 calories and 67 grams of fat, 240 mg of cholesterol, and 1,780 of sodium. For a standardized 2,000 calorie/day diet, this would then represent 80% of the daily cholesterol maximum, and almost ¾ of your sodium limit; and that is just in one salad! But I don’t mean to pick on Arby’s®. At McDonald’s®, the Crispy Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad® with Newman’s Own Ranch Dressing® has nearly twice the calories, more than three times the fat, and almost twice the sodium of a McDonald’s cheeseburger. Thanks to the fatty dressing, bacon, chicken and other “goodies”, it packs more calories than a Big Mac (which, if you are counting has 600 calories, 300 of which are from fat, and one third of this from saturated fat).
Lettuce and fat-free dressing can certainly be a healthy alternative to standard fast-food fair. But it is easy to get detoured from this healthful track by adding on cheese, fried chicken chunks, and bacon. The choices for salad dressing can also make a huge difference. McDonald’s also offers Newman’s Own Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette® with just 40 calories and zero cholesterol compared to 290 calories and 20 mg of cholesterol for the ranch dressing. Most fast food restaurants list the dressing’s nutritional data separately, so unless you’re eating your salad dry, you’ll have to do some quick addition to gauge the real dietary impact.
Like with foods in the grocery store, be a label reader! All of these fast food restaurants must list the nutritional value of their foods. But, I don’t think you need to be taking a calculator to the restaurant. I would suggest that you look at two items and the rest will sort out: how many total calories would be consumed and what is the saturated fat content. The foods to choose wisely are those that don’t overload you on excess calories but still provide the taste that you like. It is not wrong for you to carry some of your own salad dressing with you – and those “dipping spices” are very portable.
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