When I first started losing weight, I thought salads were a "safe" choice since they were made with lots of low-calorie and nutritious veggies. That's partly true—salads are a great way to pack more veggies into your diet, but they can also wreck your weight loss efforts if you aren’t careful. Here are some do's and don't to keep your salads figure friendly:
Do make your own salad
A lot of premade salads are made with tons of iceberg lettuce (more on this not-so-great choice below), barely any fresh vegetables, and loaded with creamy, high-calorie dressings, so they're not always the most beneficial or diet-friendly option. If possible, take advantage of salads bars or make your own at home so you have control over what goes into it—try starting with dark leafy greens like spinach and loading up on fiber-filled beans, and colorful veggies like red peppers, corn, and snap peas.
Don't start your salad with iceberg lettuce
I always used to load up my salads with iceberg lettuce until I discovered it offers very few nutrients (and taste for that matter) to my diet. Instead, I add darker leafy greens, like spinach, arugula, and romaine for an extra good-for-me-punch.
Do use the "2/3 rule"
When making a salad, I apply what I call the "2/3 rule". Two-thirds of my salad is made up of greens and raw veggies, while 1/3 is devoted to small portions of healthy fats (nuts, olives, avocado), lean proteins (chicken, fish, hard boiled eggs), and higher-calorie “fun” ingredients (crumble blue cheese, wasabi peas, croutons). That way, my salads never get boring, and I never feel like I’m depriving myself.
Don't overdo it with the toppings
I love adding all sorts of fun ingredients to my salads, but I only add some portions (usually only a bite or two) of the various salads from the salad bar. Tuna, chicken, egg, pasta, and bean salads are typically loaded with mayonnaise, so they're often high-calorie and don't do my diet any favors.
Do think outside the bowl
I used to make the same salad day after day, which clearly ended up becoming boring and unappetizing. I don’t let myself get into a salad rut anymore, and I experiment with interesting ingredients, such as fresh herbs, navy beans, lentils, sprouts, kiwi slices, goat cheese, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, and falafel. My local farmer's market always gives me new ideas to keep things interesting.
Don't dip your dressing
I know this probably sounds counterintuitive, but many people assume that asking for their salad dressing on the side instantly saves them hundreds of calories—I know I did. But I realized that I was dipping every piece of my salad into it and eating the entire portion. I still ask for my salad dressing on the side, but I pour a small amount onto my salad to lightly dress it myself. This way, I avoid a salad drenched in dressing, but I don’t miss any of the flavor.
More: Read Tina's daily food and fitness blog, Carrots 'N' Cake.