Summer is a great time of year to get more fruit and veggies into our diet, and salads usually come top of the list when the weather gets hot. However, if you're likely to choose creamy based pastas, or fatty salad dressings, your meal could end up being more calorific than you'd care to imagine!
Often we're guilty of choosing food at random, without stopping to think carefully if we're making the healthiest choice. So, before you begin making your choices, take a moment to look over the selection (at the salad bar, or at home), so that you can choose wisely.
A good rule of thumb to help you stay on track is that half your plate should be filled with vegetables that are leafy, raw, and without dressing. After this, you can begin choosing meats and other side options.
Here are 10 simple steps to a healthier salad bar meal:
1. Choose dark green leafs as your base, for example baby spinach leaves, endive, or mixed leaves. These are a better option than iceberg lettuce, which contains very few vitamins and minerals.
2. Try to have a rainbow of colors on your plate so that you benefit from a range of nutrients. For example beetroot, red and green peppers, mushrooms, cucumbers, radishes, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and onions.
3. Avoid veggie salads (such as coleslaw, potato salad) or pasta in mayonnaise, marinades, or dressings, as these that tend to be very high in fat.
4. Go for pulses - they are high in fibre, making you feel fuller for longer, and they're an excellent source of protein. You could try soya beans, chickpeas, lima beans, or five bean mixes (but avoid those laden with oil).
5. Choose lean meats and fish, such as grilled chicken breast, roast beef, or steamed salmon, and avoid tuna that looks heavy on the mayo. Also, watch out for salty cured meats, such as ham, bacon, or salami. Hard-boiled eggs, or tofu are also excellent alternatives.
6. Have a small portion of cheese - dairy foods can play an important role in a heart healthy diet, however you need to choose wisely! It's usually best to go for a smaller amount of the highly flavoured cheeses, such as feta, or Parmesan, or add a little grated low fat cheddar.
7. Add more protein to your salad by sprinkling a small amount of mixed nuts or seeds on top. This is a great way to give it more variety, texture, and crunch.
8. Choose a lower fat dressing, and have it on the side of your plate. Generally speaking creamy dressings tend to be higher in fat than vinaigrette's. For a zesty, healthier option try an olive oil and lemon (or lime) juice dressing.
9. Or, for a tasty alternative to salad dressing top your salad with a dollop of cottage cheese, a little natural yoghurt, or reduced fat hummus.
10. Avoid white breads, instead choose the wholegrain, multi-seeded option, which are higher in fibrer, and will help you feel fuller for longer.
To complete your healthy salad bar meal, you could add a fresh fruit salad, such as grapes, strawberries, melon, and apples slices, topped with a little natural yogurt. If possible, choose fruit salad in its natural juices, rather than in syrup.