One of the most common meals that come to mind when you think of healthy eating or starting a diet is a salad. It’s tempting to think that anything involving a bowl of lettuce is the best choice for cutting calories, but we often don’t take into account all of the things we add to that lettuce. With the literal hundreds of different ingredient combinations you can whip up and call a salad, it can be difficult to keep track of exactly how it all ads up. If we aren’t careful, it’s really easy for that skinny salad to become not so skinny. And a fat salad just kind of defeats the purpose, right?

Listed here are a few ways that calories can sneak into that salad, along with ways to foolproof your salad.

1. Using a lot of cheese:

cheesy salad

I know I can’t be the only one guilty of this? Sometimes I think it’s okay to put 3 big scoops of cheese on my salad…and while my taste buds might definitely appreciate it, my waist line does not. And an appropriate serving size for a salad is more like 2 tablespoons. Oops. It’s also important to pay attention to the kind of cheese you’re using- try low-fat, lower-calorie options like feta or part-skim mozzarella.

2. Wrong sources of protein:

4854494358_81ce5bdd8e_z

Adding high-fat protein choices, like ham or bacon can increase the calorie count in your salad fairly quickly! Opt for a leaner source like grilled chicken breast, grass-fed beef, tuna, salmon, or even a non-meat pick like black beans or tofu.

3. High calorie salad dressings/too much salad dressing:

379062115_eea62a3473_z

Have you ever looked at a bottle of Ranch dressing? I use Ranch dressing as an example because I live in the south, and those people are all about their Ranch dressing. TWO tablespoons of Ranch dressing has 148 calories. One hundred and forty eight. I don’t know about you, but I could think of a whole lot of things I would rather use 148 calories on. And Ranch dressing isn’t the only dressing that sneaks those calories in. Most bottled dressings are the same. For a healthier and “skinnier” option, try making your own dressings at home (you have thousands of recipes at your fingertips with the click of a few keys on Pinterest.) Using plain balsamic vinegar is also a great option.

4. Too many nuts and dried fruits

fruity salad

Too often, we load our salads with fruits, nuts, and cheese, add on a creamy salad dressing and call it done. While nuts are a healthy food, and have a lot of nutritious qualities, we can’t disregard the fat content. You should add no more than 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup of nuts to your salad. And fruits, especially dried fruits, jack the sugar content of the salad way up! 2 tablespoons is also a good rule for the amount of dried fruit to add.

5. “Crunchy” toppings, like croutons, tortilla strips, and pre-made topping mixes

salad-toppings

These ingredients offer little in the area of nutritional value, and are a big source of extra calories. If you’re looking to slim up your salad, try cutting these out all together, or limiting yourself to 1/4 cup.

 

Now, armed with the knowledge of what ways your salad might be sabotaging your diet, what are you putting on your salad today?