Whether you're making a trip through the salad bar or creating your own salad at home, side and main dish salads can be a great way of getting in your "5-a-day" -- eating five or more servings of colorful fruits and vegetables per day -- and keeping calories under control. Salads also can become loaded with fat and calories if you're not careful.
Salad greens form the basis of most salads
Various colored vegetables add texture and interest to salads as well as provide health-promoting plant chemicals called phytochemicals. Be creative and go beyond the traditional tomato, carrot and cucumber. Red, yellow and green peppers, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage, green peas, red onions and radishes all make tasty additions.
Vegetables are one of the best sources of fiber
For added color and taste, don't forget the fruit
If your salad is being served as the main course, it's important to include protein-rich ingredients. Try garbanzo beans, kidney beans, tofu, lean ham, turkey or chicken strips, or canned tuna in spring water.
Go easy on the croutons, bacon bits and chow mein noodles. Opt for more nutritious extras such as low-fat shredded cheese, hard-boiled eggs or ground flaxseed.
Watch the dressing
If you choose to use regular salad dressing, limit the amount used on your salad to two tablespoons, which will add roughly 150 calories and 15 grams of fat to the salad. If weight loss is a goal, then consider one of the reduced fat and calorie dressings. You'll still need to pay attention to serving size.
If you prefer the "real" thing, consider vinaigrettes made with olive or canola oil. These oils are high in monounsaturated fats that, unlike saturated fats, actually can help lower blood cholesterol levels. For an almost no-calorie, no-fat topping, splash your salad with lemon juice or flavored vinegar, add salt and pepper and enjoy!