5 Rules For a Perfect Low-Cal Salad

Hi everyone! Keeping with the salad theme, here are my 5 rules for creating a perfectly low-calorie salad. Of course, if weight's not an issue (or, you exercise 5 days a week for more than an hour each session), go ahead and increase the portions.

Joy's FIVE Rules for making a low-calorie salad:

1. Load on Leafy Greens
For less than 20 calories per 2 cups, leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, and mustard leaves, provide ample amounts of folic acid and the antioxidant, lutein. Pile high!

2. Unlimited Plain Vegetables
At 25 calories or less per serving, take advantage and load your plate. Vary your vegetable selection to vary the nutrients - you'll get a healthy dose of vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, a variety of antioxidants, and fiber. Be sure to say clear of veggies that are fried or swimming in marinades, mayo, or sauce. Some popular salad bar items include: peppers (red, green, yellow), cucumbers, carrots, onions, mushrooms, radish, broccoli, and cauliflower.

3. Add 1-2 Lean Proteins
Enjoy 1 to 2 hearty scoops of lean protein. Best bets in salad bar items include grilled chicken, hard boiled eggs (go for whites when available), shrimp, wild salmon, canned light tuna, low-fat cottage cheese, black beans, and chickpeas. Avoid anything fried, crispy, in mayo, or in heavy sauce.

4. ONE High Calorie "EXTRA"
High calorie extras can typically add more than 600 calories. And although many of the following foods are packed with nutrition (i.e., sunflower seeds, walnuts, and raisins), they're also packed with calories. Be mindful of portions and only choose one favorite for your salad (or select two half portions). See calorie guide for some popular items:

  • Chinese noodles - 150 calories (1/2 cup)
  • Croutons - 100 calories (1/2 cup)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese - 225 calories (1/2 cup)
  • Feta cheese - 190 calories (1/2 cup)
  • Chopped Walnuts - 180 calories (1/4 cup)
  • Sunflower seeds - 180 calories (1/4 cup)
  • Granola - 115 calories (1/4 cup)
  • Raisins - 120 calories (1/4 cup
  • Avocado - 150 calories (1/2 item)

5. Go Easy on DRESSING
Look for low-calorie/low-fat dressing varieties or stick with olive oil and vinegar (use 1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil with unlimited amounts of vinegar or fresh lemon). If you must use the regular varieties, limit to 1 to 2 tablespoons (2 tablespoons = 1/2 salad bar ladle or ½ small plastic salad dressing container).