Problem: The wrong salad dressing. Creamy salad dressings like blue cheese, ranch, Caesar, and thousand island are high in fat, especially saturated fat, and calories. Too much is not only bad for your heart, but for your waistline.
Solution: Choose an oil based dressing, like a light vinaigrette. You can make your own with oil and vinegar and your favorite herbs and spices. Some of my favorite light dressing brands to recommend are Newman’s Own and Bolthouse Farms because they're low in fat and calories, but still have great taste.
Problem: Too much salad dressing. Most people like their veggies COATED with dressing. Even when we choose a healthier salad dressing, too much dressing will always mean too much fat and calories.
Solution: Always get your dressing on the side. Even if you plan to drizzle your dressing on top, when you start with it on the side, you control how much dressing you use. You can try the dab and stick method, where you take your dressing on the side, dab in your fork, and then stick it in your lettuce. Another thing you can do to add lower levels of calories and fat to your salad is add moisture before adding your dressing — use salsa or pico de gallo, vinegar, or the juice from a lemon or lime. You get a ton of flavor without a lot of calories and sodium and you're able to use less dressing.
Problem: Too many high-calorie toppings. They include fried wontons, tortilla strips, croutons, bacon bits, sunflower seeds, candied nuts, cheese and avocados. Not all of these foods are unhealthy per se (some are great for your health!), but we need to take all of them in small doses.
Solution: Use smaller portions. Always ask for toppings on the side, or take some off the top right when you get your salad. If you like crunch, use gold fish or a whole wheat cracker instead of croutons. Use sun-dried tomatoes instead of bacon bits and try to use only one or two tablespoons of other toppings (or the size of about two poker chips). Don’t get me wrong, avocados are awesome — but an entire avocado has about 40 grams of fat, which is more than half of the recommended fat the average person needs in a day!
Problem: Too much meat, especially high-fat meats. Think crispy chicken salad or a loaded chef salad. While protein, especially lean meat, is healthy, too much is too much. Extra protein, especially if it's deep-fried adds extra fat and calories and can add a lot of sodium.
Solution: Choose less meat. Remember: You're having a salad, not a sandwich! Try to limit your portions to about 3 oz, or the size of a deck of cards, and consider choosing a hard-boiled egg or egg whites. Incorporate more plant-based proteins like beans, tofu or edamame and always choose a grilled protein, like grilled chicken or fish.