Croutons definitely add a crunch to your salad, but these cubed and seasoned pieces of bread sadly fall into the ‘empty calorie’ department since they don’t really have much else going for them nutrition-wise.
If you’d like your veggie bowl to have more bite, opt for roasted nuts, pomegranate seeds or bell peppers instead.
Rich, creamy dressings like ranch, Caesar, thousand island, blue cheese or honey mustard sauces are often calorie bombs.
Case in point: two tablespoons of ranch dressing pack 146kcal, and two tablespoons of honey mustard dressing stand at 139kcal – bad news if you’re looking to shed those extra kilos.
If you’re really craving for a taste of that creaminess, try adding in avocados, hummus or a sprinkle of cheese.
When choosing your salad dressing, you should also be wary of the stuff that’s labelled “fat-free”. Often, these dressings are laden with salt and sugar to make them tastier.
A small-scale study previously published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also found that your body needs a small amount of dietary fat in order to absorb certain nutrients from vegetables like lycopene and beta-carotene.
If you prefer a more natural dressing, pick something lighter like olive oil with balsamic vinegar. Olive oil contains healthy fat that can be good for you when eaten in moderation.
Looking to add some sweetness to your salad? Pick fresh fruit over their dried counterparts. Dried fruits like raisins or cranberries add unnecessary sugar to your meal.
When these fruits are dehydrated, they lose water and end up being very energy-dense. When ingested in bigger amounts, they can cause your blood sugar levels to spike.
Since they’re so small, one serving of dried fruit also tends to contain more sugar than a serving of fresh fruit.
Sure, crunchy bacon bits or smoked ham slices can make your salad a whole lot tastier, but the calories and sodium you get from them aren’t doing you any good.
It’s a good idea to top your salad with protein so that it makes for a more balanced meal, but stick to more nutritious choices such as grilled salmon, chicken breast or hard-boiled eggs.
Natural, dry-roasted nuts can be a wholesome addition to your salad, but steer clear from the candied varieties (i.e. those that are glazed over with sugar).
On their own, nuts are already pretty calorie-dense so you don’t want to pile on added kcal without realising. Some of the best nuts you can add to your salad include heart-healthy almonds and walnuts.
Text: Dawn Chen/SHAPE