So you've put together a lovely salad full of veggie-laden goodness, and now you're ready to finish it off with some flavorful toppings. Well, not so fast – you might want to think twice about the types of toppings you're going to choose, as they can add a whole lot of unwanted calories to your salad. Below are some of the most infamous salad toppings to avoid if you want to ensure a healthier meal.
1. Bacon Bits
Bacon deserves to be its own food group based on flavor alone, but the fact that these savory little morsels are comprised of highly processed meats makes them a no-go for your salad. Try substituting beans, roasted chickpeas or tempeh (a traditional Indonesian soybean product) instead for a far healthier flavor boost.
2. Creamy Salad Dressings
Dousing your salad with these rich, luxurious dressings can really pack on the calories, not to mention the sodium and unhealthy saturated fats that come along with each serving. For example, one serving (typically 2 tablespoons) of the average ranch dressing contains a whopping 145 calories, 130 of which come straight from fat. While it might be hard to curb the creamy dressing craving, try to substitute vinaigrettes or olive oil instead to reduce both your fat and sodium intake.
3. Glazed Nuts
Hey, wait a minute – aren't nuts good for you? Yes they are in their raw form, but when they've been coated with a sugary glaze, they can really start to move the needle on the calorie intake. While you could do a lot worse than glazed nuts for a salad topping, consider going for dry-roasted nuts instead.
4. Fat-Free Salad Dressings
More often than not, fat-free salad dressings are loaded with sugar, as well as tons of various artificial additives that are designed to replicate the flavor you're missing by not having any fat in your dressing. And besides, not all fats are bad for you – in fact, if you top your salad with a heart-healthy fat such as avocado, it can actually nourish your body by helping your system absorb the abundant nutrients that are in your salad veggies.
Store-bought croutons can provide wonderful texture to your salad, but they add quite a bit of empty calories while offering very little nutritional value. Instead of going for these flavorful-yet-preservative-laden cubes of crunchiness, try toasting a piece of whole grain bread, and then crumbling it over the top of your salad.
6. Dried Fruit
As yummy as these little morsels can be, keep in mind that dried fruit has undergone a dehydration process that causes it to become far more calorie-dense than regular fruit. Not only that, but many dried fruit manufacturers add various oils and sugars to enhance flavor and texture, which can boost the calorie count as well. Instead of dried fruit, go for fresh fruit such as blueberries, grapes, mandarin oranges, or apple slices, as they contain generous amounts of water and fiber, as well as plenty of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
7. Crunchy Noodles
Unfortunately, these golden brown titans of texture are fried, which makes them a drag in the nutrition department. Not only that, but most crunchy noodles are loaded with sodium, which can really bring on the bloat.
As the famous saying goes, information is power. Be sure to keep this information in mind to make better salad topping choices, so that you can maximize the nutritional value of your meal!