Thirteen years in public school gym classes taught me this: if you want to eat healthy, go grab a salad. Healthy eating isn’t easy. I’d rather grab a piece of chocolate cake than an apple any day of the week. That being said, I consider myself a healthy eater.
I always eat fruits and vegetables and try my best to cut back on sugar, carbs and unhealthy fats. From elementary school to my senior year of high school, every gym class spent at least one day talking about nutrition. These conversations were always short. Unbeknownst to many, salads often pull us further away from our healthy eating goals because we actually don’t know how to eat them. No, I’m not talking about if you put your salad on a plate or in a bowl, or if you favor using a fork over a spoon. Has it ever crossed your mind how much dressing you put on your salad? How much cheese are you putting on your salad, and what type of cheese is it? Are you crouton obsessed? Don’t be too hard on yourself — we’ve been conditioned to associate leafy greens with healthy eating. Everyone wants to eat healthy because there are so many benefits: reduced risk of stroke, cancer, more happiness in your life and an increase in your chances of living longer. I find salads to be unsubstantial. In its most basic form, a salad is just green watery leaves. Where is the attraction? I end up putting five pounds of Ranch dressing and six billion croutons on my salad because salads are nothing! Eating a salad (depending on what’s in it) is almost equivalent to drinking water, and this is why people go crazy with toppings. After eating a salad, you’ll probably end up reaching for something with more substance to eat. Who can live on water and leaves? No one. Here lies one of the major issues with salads — they aren’t substantial enough and you find yourself hungry again a short time later.
Most Americans have decided that, if they pick up a salad instead of a cheeseburger, they are automatically healthy eaters. Preparing your salad the wrong way is doing you more harm than good; a huge issue no one really sees. It is far too tempting to pile on extra toppings to make your salad more filling. We think we’re eating healthy when really we are going in the opposite direction.
Dressing is one of the main culprits. A study out of Purdue University says we only need three grams of monounsaturated fat. Although monounsaturated fats are good for you, too much of them is bad. Your average pack of dressing contains about two tablespoons, averaging out to about 12 grams of fat. That is an extra nine grams of fat you don’t need. In terms of dressing, less is more. If you don’t want to be a full blown health nut but want to feel better, the American Heart Association suggests adding more fresh fruit, look for darker greens and more proteins such as salmon or trout. Pay attention to what you are topping your salad with and what type of greens you are using. It could make all the difference! Deciding to grab a salad for lunch only to reach for a brownie later on is counter productive. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle all around puts you in a better place. There are many other ways to live and eat healthy than reaching for greens.
Lizze Zelenka can be contacted at email@example.com