Weight loss myths: Is your salad cheating on you?

June 18, 2014 - Nutrition

salad 460597009Not all salads are good for you – some so-called ‘healthy options’ contain more calories and fat than you might think. Here, we look at the common culprits that sabotage salads, and also offer healthy alternatives.

We all know that salad is supposed to be a healthy girl’s best friend, but could that healthy option actually be making you fat? Not all variations are as wholesome as we’d like to think and salads can quite often be filled with salt, sugars and fats, turning your healthy intentions into a diet-trashing nightmare. Here’s what to ditch and what to switch to keep your salad both nutritious and delicious.

Creamy dressings
DITCH IT: Overloading on shop-bought dressings (even if they’re labelled ‘light’) can make your salad less healthy, as many of these dressings are loaded with sugar.
SWITCH IT: Instead, go for dressings with the shortest list of ingredients, and preferably an oil-based vinaigrette if you can. Alternatively, make your own dressing at home, using ingredients like fat-free natural yoghurt, light soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, cider vinegar or lemon juice – that way you’ll know exactly what’s in it.

Fried chicken bits
DITCH IT: Salads with those tasty looking fried chicken bits in them might look innocent enough, but those little strips have a lot to answer for! Just 100g fried chicken breast in breadcrumbs contains 242 kcal and 12.7 fat.
SWITCH IT: Swap for 100g grilled skinless chicken breast, which comes in at 148 kcal and 2.2g fat, or 100g cooked turkey, which has 155 kcal and 1.7g fat.

DITCH IT: It might seem like a harmless addition, but just one teaspoon of mayonnaise (about 5g) contains 34.5 kcal and 3.8g of fat – and most of us don’t stop at one teaspoon!
SWITCH IT: Fat-free Greek yoghurt is a great substitute for mayonnaise – one teaspoon provides 3 kcal and no fat, so you’ll get that same delicious creamy consistency, without the excess calories and fat.

Crunchy toppings
DITCH IT: Croutons might seem like a good idea at the time, but they’re loaded with fat and calories. 30g of croutons averages 148 kcal and 7g fat.
SWITCH IT: Edamame beans have a nice crunchy consistency and if you go for a 30g serving, you’ll only be adding 42 kcal and 1.9g fat.

Pickled veggies
DITCH IT? Anything that’s pickled – such as olives, gherkins or jalapeño – is likely to contain salt. While salt has no calories itself, it can lead to water retention, resulting in temporary weight gain. And of course too much salt can raise blood pressure and, over time, lead to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke – so it’s best to minimise your intake where possible.
STICK WITH IT: You’d have to eat a large amount of these pickles to add massive levels of salt, so it’s OK to include some – just drain and rinse them well first.
SWITCH IT: Try other salad vegetables with an interesting texture, like artichokes or radishes.

In most cases, making your own salad will almost certainly be healthier than opting for a shop-bought one, as then you’ll know exactly what’s in it and can control your portion size more carefully. It will probably be cheaper as well, so not only will your body thank you in the long run but your bank account will, too!

If you need support losing weight, LighterLife groups can help – our expertly-trained LighterLife Counsellors have been helping people to lose weight for over 20 years. LighterLife will help you to explore the reason why you over eat in the first place and offer the tools to lose weight and keep it off in the long-term. For more information, call 0800 2 988 988 or visit