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What not to put in your salad?

7 Items That Ruin Your Salad

Want to keep your salad healthy? Avoid these ingredients which can add tons of extra calories to your otherwise healthy meal.

Add the wrong toppings to a salad and you can double or even triple the calorie count! The salad bar can be a tough thing to navigate — use these tips for what to avoid on your next lunch break for a healthy, low-calorie meal.

Creamy Dressings
These are probably the worst dressings you can choose. Take ranch dressing, for example, one serving of two tablespoons has 140 calories — and 130 of those calories are coming from FAT. Other dressings like blue cheese, Caesar, parmesan, or chipotle all fall under this category of dressings to avoid. Not only are they loaded with fat, but they also have high levels of sodium and very little nutritional value.

Healthy Alternative: Stick to vinaigrettes — though even some of these can be high in sodium levels, too. I prefer to use just a small amount of extra-virgin olive oil with balsamic vinaigrette. If you don’t want to give up your beloved ranch dressing, just drizzle a small amount over your salad or have a taste of it to suppress your craving. You could also use this old dieting trick: Dip the tip of your fork into the dressing before you put it in the salad to get just enough taste with each bite without drowning it in dressing.

Glazed Nuts
Nuts are healthy fats and a great addition to any salad — that is, until they’re kettle-cooked and glazed with sugar. A lot of companies sell glazed walnuts and pecans, and you can find them sprinkled on an array of salads at restaurants across the country. Are they the worst topping on this list? No, but they’re not that great for you either.

Healthy Alternative: Stick to dry-roasted nuts to save on calories. I like to add sliced organic almonds to my salads, but chopped organic pistachios, pecans, and walnuts are a good addition too. Remember: Add nuts as a light topping — don’t overdo it. An ounce or two can pack in a lot of fat depending on the nut you choose.

Crunchy Tortilla Chips or Shells
Wherever Mexican food is sold, people always order something like a «Southwestern Salad» thinking that they’re making the healthier choice by not ordering tacos or other Mexican dishes. They couldn’t be more wrong! These salads are loaded with cheese, creamy dressings, and high-calorie tortilla chips — or worse — served in a tortilla bowl! The Quesadilla Explosion Salad at Chili’s (which already sounds like a diet buster!) contains tortilla chips and clocks in at 1,400 calories with 93 grams of fat. Whoa! I want you to stay far away from these kinds of salads, and especially tortilla chips or shells, from now on.

Healthy Alternative: You can still order a Mexican-inspired salad, just make some modifications. Request balsamic dressing on the side instead of ranch and hold the tortilla chips and cheese, but keep the rest of the healthy goodies like black beans, corn, and tomatoes.

Fried Chicken or Shrimp
I encourage you to always add some sort of protein item to your salad, but steer clear of anything fried. These additions are packed with unnecessary calories and loads of sodium. It’s not just fried chicken I’m referring to here — this covers fried onions, fried falafel balls, fried seafood, and anything else fried. They will turn your healthy salad into a total caloric splurge. Wouldn’t you rather save your calories for dessert?

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Healthy Alternative: If you’re going to add some protein to your salad, choose grilled items only. Consider healthier protein options like shrimp, tuna, egg whites, or a veggie burger.

First let me clarify, cheese isn’t ALL bad. Three or four daily servings of low-fat dairy products can boost your body’s fat-burning potential. Studies have shown that organic dairy-rich diets may help weight loss and the body’s ability to burn fat. Yet when some people add cheese to a salad, they really pile it on — and that’s why it’s on this list. But some cheeses are more nutritional than others, and there are HEALTHY ways to add them to your salad.

Healthy Alternative: Feta is a great choice for salads because it is lower in fat and calories than most cheeses. Another idea is to buy string cheese (part-skim mozzarella) sticks and add one to your salad by cutting it up into pieces, which will also help you practice portion control.

Craisins, or dried cranberries, are a fruit, so that means they’re good for you, right? Well, not exactly. I know these are everyone’s favorite sweet treat to add to any salad — but they have more sugar than you’d think! Craisins and their cousin, raisins, are called «nature’s candy» for a reason! Though they are fat-free and relatively low calorie at 130 for a ¼ cup — they’re full of sugar — 29 grams to be exact.

Healthy Alternative: If you can’t give ’em up, I suggest counting them out and only adding 10 or so to your salad. Otherwise, why not add other seasonal fruits to sweeten up your salads? I love adding organic strawberries or blueberries to mine!

Croutons are an easy way to ruin your salad by adding refined carbohydrates. Croutons from a popular brand are about 30 calories for just six pieces. Do most people put only six croutons on their salad? Not likely. These toppings can also have high sodium levels depending on how they’re prepared.

Healthy Alternative: Bread isn’t bad if you’re eating 100 percent whole wheat! You can definitely get a bread roll to accompany your salad, but keep it healthy and put it down when you’re full.

The Worst Things to Put on Your Salad, Ranked by Calories

Just because you’re eating a salad, doesn’t mean everything in it is healthy.

May 9th, 2016
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Salads are so healthy, no matter what you put in them, right? Nope. It is easier than you think to quickly load up your salad with calories just by adding certain toppings. You would be surprised at what a difference adding just a few roasted nuts can make.

With so many options, the salad bar can definitely be overwhelming, but by using this guide of toppings ranked by calories per serving, you may be better prepared to navigate the bar and understand what to avoid tossing into your next bowl of leafy greens.

6. Bacon (~50 calories in two tablespoons)


Photo by Christin Urso

Steer clear of processed meats. Bacon is obviously very greasy, and even if you’re only putting little pieces in your salad, the calories quickly add up.

5. Starchy Vegetables (~80 calories in 1/2 cup)


Photo by Jenny Georgieva

Starchy vegetables, like corn and peas, definitely have more calories than non-starchy ones, like spinach and tomatoes. Starchy vegetables also have about 10 more grams of carbs in them, but in the end, vegetables are still vegetables. So, even though the starchy variety may have more calories, they are still pretty healthy.

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4. Cheese (~100 calories in one ounce)


Photo by Spoon Northwestern

Typical cheeses found in salads, such as blue cheese and cheddar, are good sources of calcium and protein, but they are also loaded with calories and saturated fat. Try to limit your cheese intake, but if you dairy dose is a must have, try swapping out blue cheese for feta, which has fewer calories.

3. Croutons (~122 calories in one cup)


Photo by Nina Lincoff

Even though these provide such a satisfying crunch, don’t waste calories on pieces of bread. Croutons, unlike most other breads, aren’t even filling, so it’s really not necessary to put them in your salad.

2. Creamy Salad Dressing (~160 calories in 1/4 cup)


Photo by April Purvis

This can’t come as a shock to people. No, that caesar or ranch dressing you are currently submerging your salad in is not healthy at all. Keep in mind, there is about 180 calories in the dressing alone, and these thick toppers are extremely fattening and extremely high in calories-not to mention that most contain many processed oils.

1. Salted or Roasted Nuts (~330 calories in 1/3 cup)


Photo by Kirby Barth

Roasted nuts are usually roasted in unhealthy fats that aren’t great for you. Not only is that extra sodium bad for your blood pressure, but those nuts are very high in fat and in calories. If you have access to them and you’re really nuts for nuts, try adding in some unsalted almonds or cashews, which only contain natural fats.

15 Things You Should Be Putting On Your Salad But Aren’t


Salad has long been saddled with a reputation as a boring dinner guest, a bowl of rabbit food that needs to be drowned in dressing to even be palatable. If salad were an algebra problem, it would probably be something simple like lettuce + vegetables + dressing = meh. The mental image conjured up by diners who eschew salad is usually the diner-style dinner starters that feature a handful of iceberg lettuce, fourteen carrot shreds, and a few pale tomato slices. That isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time.

The truth is, salad is a culinary shapeshifter, an experiment in mad kitchen science that can be a thousand delicious things if you use your imagination. Switch out the iceberg for romaine, red lettuce, or arugula! Get wacky and throw some kale into the mix! Chop up whatever fresh veggies you can think of and throw a garden party right in your bowl. Once you have the basics down, your salad can be just about anything you want it to be. The magic is in the add-ins. If you’ve never tried supercharging your salad with crunchy, salty, sweet, or zesty elements, then have you even had a salad? Here’s a list of 15 things you’ve probably never thought to add to your salad but should immediately consider. Not to brag, but you’re in for the salad of your life.



These healthful gems aren’t just for the relish tray or charcuterie board anymore. Their toothy texture and salty flavor lend a much-needed boost to the monotony of the standard salad greens and veggies. That’s right . technically speaking, olives aren’t a vegetable; they’re a fruit, with health benefits that include antioxidants and a powerful dose of vitamin E.

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A trip to the olive section of the grocery store will tell you there’s a vast array of olives to choose from when revamping your salad options. With Spanish, pimento-stuffed, black, kalamata, with pits and without, olive-picking can be a sticky wicket. Black olives aren’t known for their dynamic flavor and are best saved for pizzas and Thanksgiving spreads. Kalamata olives, named for the Greek town that first grew the sun-loving fruit, are a favorite salad topper around the internet. «Kalamata olives are great, strong flavor but not a sharp bite,» notes one Quora user. The pitted version are the hands-down winner, for ease of use as well as for ready flavor.

Seeds and Nuts

Nuts and seeds

The always-healthy selection of seeds and nuts that add crunch and flavor to your salad is practically never-ending. Sunflower seeds are an obvious addition, having made the grade at salad bars and self-serve buffets. Not only does their mellow flavor play nicely with just about everything else in your salad, but for being the smallest item in the mix, they’re a health food dynamo, offering vitamins, minerals, and healthy polyunsaturated fats in every serving. Chia seeds are another smart option, and not just for growing on the ever-popular Christmas gift, the Chia Pet. Chia seeds provide the highest omega-3 fat content of all plant foods, and they’re considered a complete protein, which means they contain all the essential amino acids needed for muscle synthesis.

Nuts of all sorts are the tops when it comes to salad toppers, treasured for their range, versatility, and nutritional wow factor. Whether you go for roasted almond slivers, toasted pecans, dry-roasted peanuts, or raw walnuts, you’ll be getting more than just an earthy bite of flavor among the garden greens. You’ll also be getting protein, polyunsaturated fats that are great for your heart and brain, and a load of minerals.

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional Yeast

If you’ve never heard of this shakable salad topping, add it to your grocery list for your next salad opportunity. While it may sound a bit questionable, nutritional yeast — or nooch, as the health food set lovingly refer to it — is derived from «a species of yeast known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae,» according to Medical News Today. It’s heated and dried, which makes it inactive and prevents fermentation.

So how does it improve a salad? The flavor of nooch is described as «cheesy,» which makes it highly popular as a vegan popcorn topping, though you probably won’t mistake it for parmesan. As a salad topping, a sprinkle or two can add complexity to the green flavors of your lettuce and veggie medley. It can also be used as an ingredient in healthy salad dressings, as well as being pulsed in the blender with sunflower seeds and garlic powder to create a shakable topping with a bit more body.



With their vibrant violet flesh and even more intensely colored juice, beets are maybe the most colorful addition you can make to a salad. They provide a whopping 23 grams of magnesium and 40 grams of phosphorus per 3-ounce serving and may assist with health benefits ranging from lowering blood pressure to preventing cataracts.

Though beets are traditionally thought of as a base ingredient for borscht and other soups, slices of roasted beets can dress up a salad nicely. A Reddit user playing culinary detective to figure out the prep process of a particular beet salad they’d eaten offered their best take as roasting «already sliced beets at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes without oil.» Raw beets can also be added to salads in either slices or shreds. Whichever way you prefer them, be cautious with your prep; beet juice is often used as an all-natural plant-based dye and stains can wreak havoc on your favorite apron.

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The powerful aromatic magic of onions in all forms make them a natural addition to a salad in need of a kick in the greens. Their mighty aroma may be enough to keep you at a distance, but you’ll be living the good life from all the health benefits onions offer. One flavonoid in particular, quercetin, is an antioxidant that may have heart and cancer-preventing benefits. Adding helpful phytochemicals to an already healthful combination of plant-based nutrients is like the icing on the cake, if the cake was lettuce and the icing was onion-flavored.

If you’re not afraid of the strength in their oniony odor, a red or white onion sliced into rings is a spicy plus in your salad. A yellow onion may be a bit sweeter and can be caramelized for a sweet treat. If you find the bombastic flavor too much to take, you can follow a Reddit user’s advice to «soak the onions in cold water for abt 15 minutes to decrease its pungency.» And if that doesn’t do the trick, you can always opt for milder green onions or scallions in your salad instead.



You can never have to many greens in your greens, and that includes the broad selection of herbs you can add on top. Herbs like cilantro valued for their healthful compounds that can help battle inflammation, provide antifungal protection, and can even help in fighting cancer. Basil is another flavorful herb that can jazz up a salad while offering health benefits like helping with digestion and keeping your skin glowing naturally. Mint and its immune-boosting magic can also find a home in the salad bowl, though they’re traditionally thought of as a sweeter herb from their use in candy and sweet flavorings. Because fresh versions are usually found in the refrigerated produce section of most grocery stores, herbs are an easy ingredient to pick up for adding to your home salad green scene. Some herb fans even recommend them as an inexpensive way to flavor up salads when you’re shopping on a budget.



What is salsa if not chopped vegetables and spices? In its most basic form, salsa is a blend of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and seasonings — all things you were probably going to put in your salad anyway. So why not skip the dressing with its extra calories and bring a little fire to the table with a salsa dressing instead? Your salad doesn’t have to be a taco salad, either; salsa in just about any version will show your salad fixings a saucy good time, whether it’s a simple Romaine affair or a full-blown spring green situation. If you’re so inclined, you can throw fresh veggies in a blender and pulse them into a salsa dressing that’s too fresh to resist. And if you opt for bottled salsa, be sure to check the label to find one with as little added sodium and sugar as possible. There’s no reason to ruin a healthy salad with a salsa that didn’t read the assignment.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar

A welcome tart and tangy addition to any salad dressing, apple cider vinegar is the base for many homemade dressings with surprising health value. As the name states pretty clearly, this vinegar is made from fermented apples, which results in a cloudy combination of yeast and bacteria called the mother. The mother is a probiotic, which makes it a power player in the eating-for-health game. Apple cider vinegar even shows up as a health supplement in pharmacies and vitamin shops, in the form of gummies, which should definitely not be part of your salad recipe.

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Though an apple cider vinegar dressing offers a wealth of benefits from potential weight loss to blood sugar control, it is definitely an acid, and eating too much of it can cause problems. As Reddit users point out, it’s best balanced out in a dressing with olive oil and sweetened with a little honey.

Pomegranate Seeds

Pomegranate seeds

A crunchy burst of tangy sweetness is sometimes just what your salad needs, and pomegranate seeds stand ready to heed the call. These little gems are another deceptively small power food that bring antioxidants to the nutrition party like nobody’s business. Their antioxidant compounds can help lower bad cholesterol and prevent damage to cells, with a whole pomegranate providing almost half your daily required dose of vitamin C. That may seem like a lot of seeds, but their size makes them easy to sprinkle all over your salad dish. They can even become the star of the show, as in a pomegranate salad recipe one Reddit user calls «The pomegranate salad that gives me a reason to live.» Quite a testimonial.

The sweet-and-tart nature of pomegranate seeds makes them a great addition to a spinach salad. They play nicely with a soft cheese topping like feta or goat cheese and make an interesting counterpoint to walnuts or pecans.



The unexpected zing and weird, wiggly crunch of pickles can turn a simple salad into a celebration of life. Sure, they’re a natural fit on any burger, and sometimes on hotdogs in the form of relish. But dropped on top of a green salad, pickles become a revelation that you may never be able to live without. One Reddit user was either so surprised or so impressed with their significant other’s addition of pickles on their salad, they were inspired to post a photo. Response from commenters was largely positive.

Another Reddit user urged readers to add pickles to salads, pointing out that «It makes this whole healthy eating thing feel somewhat flavorful.» To be fair, pickles come with a lot of sodium; 3 dill chips contain 210 milligrams, which is almost 10% of the daily recommended allowance. So if pickles are the only salty element you intend to add to your salad, you have some wiggle room. If they’ll be sharing the plate with other sodium-rich ingredients, maybe go a little easy.



Not everyone agrees that slices of crisp, juicy apples are at home on top of a salad. Some Reddit users had strong opinions when asked about mixing fruit and green salad ingredients. The consensus: fruits like tomatoes, cucumbers, and avocados can stay, but everything else is taboo. The idea of sweet and savory blending in a salad seems to be a hotly contested suggestion.

For the brave of tongue willing to venture an attempt, a tart green apple in slices or shreds can add mouthwatering flavor to a salad in need of a little oomph. A sweet apple like a Honeycrisp or a Gala can bring sweetness to greens on the bitter side like arugula or kale. Texture may be part of the trick, too; in another Reddit thread, commenters suggest a combination of «apple, fennel, and carrot» atop spring greens, which sounds like a tasty and crunchy lunch or dinner salad.

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