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How to Make Salads that Are Actually Healthy (+ Easy Salad Dressing Swaps)

When trying to lose weight, it seems as though many people automatically believe that means they need to eat salads for a couple meals a day or a week.

This logic isn't necessarily correct as eating salads won't necessarily lead to weight loss but there's nothing wrong with swapping out a few meals with a

healthier salad with lots of veggies.

What often happens though when people start switching meals to salads is that 1. the amount of calories in the salad isn't inherently clear and 2. attempting to cover up

the taste and texture of vegetables doesn't work out so well.

Salads can be one the most healthy meals that you can have, or they can be just as calorie dense as a burger and fries. Surprising right?

In the salad below, for example, we're looking at the Grilled Oriental Chicken Salad from Applebee's. This salad has lettuce, some carrots, cucumbers, Chinese crispy noodles, grilled chicken and an Asian vinaigrette dressing. Without that breadstick this salad clocks in at 1440 calories.

Just looking at that salad on the menu, you wouldn't think it could pack such a gigantic punch of calories, carbs and fat but, it can.

Same with this one here. Walk into a Chilis thinking you're getting something healthier on the menu only to be met with sadness. This Santa Fe Chicken Salad has grilled chicken, pico de gallo, avocado, lettuce, tortilla strips and a special ranch dressing and tops out at almost 700 calories.

How can you actually make a salad healthy?'

The easiest way (and of course, most basic), would be to make it at home.

Start with a base of greens

-Romanine, iceburg, mixed greens, spinach and arugula all make good options.

Add vegetables:

-Cucumbers, tomatoes, sliced peppers, red onions, chopped zucchini,

Add 1-2 tsps. of a fat source

-Olives, cheese, avocado, sunflower seeds, pepeitas,

Add 2 TBL Carb source

-A few dried cranberries, raisins or blueberries. Sliced strawberries, apples, grapes. A few crunchy strips, croutons. etc.

Add 4 -6 oz of protein

-Sliced chicken, beef, salmon, shrimp, tuna fish, tofu, ground turkey,

1 TBL Dressing

-Olive oil + vinegar, red wine vinegar, low-calorie salad dressings, yogurt dressings, mustard, sriracha


Lower Calorie/Fat Salad Dressing Swaps + Tips

Swap Bleu Cheese, Ranch, Ceasar and other creamy dressings for Bolthouse Farms brand or another healthy salad dressing such as Primal Kitchen, Annies or a yogurt based dressing (usually found near the bags of lettuce at the grocery store).

Make your own vinaigrette using olive oil and balsamic vinegar with some salt, pepper, garlic and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Use mustard as a dressing, or add some mustard to some red wine vinegar to make an almost 0 calorie dressing.

If you don't do yogurt, and only like creamy dressings, take 1 TBL of the dressing you like and mix it with a little water to thin it out and make it seem like more.


A salad is a healthy meal if you do it right but can also be as calorie dense as a burger if you aren't paying attention!

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