Apr 20 2011

Salad Adventures 101: Choosing the Best Salad for You! Graehm Gray

Hello my fans and welcome to Salad Adventures 101. Yes, this is part one of a course about how to choose the best salad for you. It seems like an easy question to answer. What could be difficult about picking lettuce and tomato? But as we all know, it’s not your mother’s salad anymore. These days, salads come in lots of varieties, with different lettuces, different color tomatoes and hundreds of items that we add to the basic dish. And if that’s not enough to make your head spin, we can talk about the thousands of salad dressings that are available. So you can see that having a salad guide can be life saving! You never know when you are going to be in a situation like having a football field size salad bar to choose from or a menu that has an entire section of salads! What do you do?

Well my fans, you have come to the right place. I will give you the “what to chose” list that will make your life much easier. You should keep this list with you at all times. Even make you own notes on it. Salads should be a wonderful and necessary part of our daily food curriculum. By making the right choices, you will be eating a healthy meal of nature’s finest products. But on the other hand, by pouring on too much salad dressing, adding too many sweetened items or adding fried foods, you can turn this basically natural creation into a garden nightmare of unhealthy and unbalanced chemicals.

By the way, I didn’t take that last sentence from Stephen King if that’s what you were thinking!

So here it is- the salad list:

1. Romaine or Iceberg? Most health foodies will say choose the Romaine lettuce over the Iceberg-yes Romaine definitely has more of the healthy dark green leafy items (antioxidants). But if you love Iceberg-mix in both.

2. Should I add salt? Don’t add any extra salt to the salad-there is plenty of natural salt in the salad itself.

3. The bacon bits, candy-coated walnuts and fried chicken look so good! Hold on there partner- items which are loaded with SoFAS** (solid fats and added sugars) like-the bacon bits and fried foods are loaded with saturated fats which have been tied into artery clogging heart disease. The candy coated anything give you extra sugar which your body responds to by pumping out insulin which causes a vicious cycle resulting in problems like diabetes, obesity, weight gain and more. So why add them?

4. How about cheese? Most salad bars have crumbled blue cheese or shredded cheddar or a sliced variety. Cheese is a fat and protein. Yes it is a dairy product so you can get your calcium from it. But we all know that fats hard at room temperature are mostly saturated which are not good for us in large amounts. So, be careful-use cheese in moderate amounts only! And try to select low fat dairy products in general.

5. Want to add some steak, chicken, fish, eggs, tofu, or cold cuts to your salad? These are all great choices, just not fried! Grilled, baked, broiled, poached or hard boiled are the best choices. Portion size of this extra protein load-not bigger than your clenched fist. Remember moderation grasshopper!

6. Salad dressing-how much can I use and which on is the best? This is where the calories can add up. Here is a rubric:
A. Chose natural dressings without preservatives
B. Chose lower salt, lower fat and non sugar added dressings
C. Never cover the salad with dressing-always dip your salad bites into the dressing and use the least amount of dressing.
D. Many foodies will tell you to eat the salad sans dressing. Okay, maybe that works for some of you, but I like my dressing. From sprinkling lemon juice to a creamy thick blue cheese dressing-there are lots of different tastes for everyone to choose from. Sometimes it can be the dressing that gets kids to eat salad! But you have to limit the amount of dressing. Most dressings have lots of fats and the calories can add up quickly. Remember to “Dip and Taste!”

7. What about nuts? As you all know, I am nuts about nuts. Except if you have an allergy to nuts, adding nuts gives you plant protein, B class vitamins, mostly unsaturated fats and fiber as well as antioxidants. All good for you! Nuts will make you feel full-so you may eat less! Be careful with some varieties of raw almonds as they have been recently associated with Salmonella. Walnuts, peanuts, cashews, pistachios, almonds, pecans are great. Don’t eat candy-coated nuts and always chose the unsalted variety. Bake with cinnamon for a flavorful twist (see Best Diet in the Universe Baked Cinnamon Almonds*).

8. Can I add fresh fruit?-Yes but in moderate amounts. Fruit contains fiber and natural sugars and lots of great vitamins and antioxidants. The texture and sweetness of the fruit may help you use less dressing. However remember, fruit has sugar. So in moderation this is a terrific add on. Too much of any good thing can become a bad thing!

9. Beans, beans and beans? Yes, yes and yes. You all know the little diddy that goes like this,” beans, beans are good for your heart…” When you can, always add beans to your salad-these fiber rich and protein rich little fellows are great tasting and will make you feel full. Most beans are loaded with carbohydrates, but they also have lots of soluble fiber which lowers sugar and cholesterol in the blood. Choose the beans, lentils and legumes with the highest fiber content. Air freshener anyone?

10. Can I add carrots, cucumbers, peppers, cauliflower, and broccoli? Of course. All of these veggies have terrific vitamins, fiber, phyto-chemicals and antioxidants and lots health benefits including reducing cancer and heart disease risk. Just remember portion moderation.

11. Can I have some corn and macaroni salad from the salad bar? Corn is being used in everything from bio-fuel (ethanol, etc.) to peanut butter. It is the largest crop produced in the United States. Corn contains lots of carbohydrates but also vitamins A, E, Folate, B-6; minerals like zinc and magnesium and phyto-chemicals like lutien***. So in moderation, it is good for you. Macaroni is pasta and that means carbohydrates. If it is made with a processed (refined) grain, there are no other health benefits except the carb content. So the bottom line is: everything you consume goes into the body’s food bank-proteins, fats and carbohydrates. A simple rule is that you should eat the best in each class. That means – for proteins: lean red meat, fish or plant proteins; for carbohydrates: whole grain, complex carbohydrates; for fats: poly and or mono unsaturated fats. If you keep that thought in mind, you will and should eliminate many of SoFAS and fatty organ meats.

My friends, that concludes part one of Salad Adventures 101. Choosing a salad shouldn’t be fraught with anxiety. Choosing wisely is the key. Portion control and other important issues will be discussed in part two. Keep this list with you at all times. Well, you know what I mean!

Stay fit and healthy The Nerdel Way!

Links:
A. ***Lutien is an antioxidant found in dark leafy greens, egg yolks and veggies. For more information please go to the Lutien Information Bureau: www.luteininfo.com
B. **SoFAS – solid fats and added sugars: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010: www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/dietaryguidelines2010.pdf
C.*Baked Cinnamon Walnuts: Best Diet in the Universe Day 4: www.nerdel.com/blog/2011/03/20/best-diet-in-the-universe-day-4-graehm-gray/

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