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Easy Substitutions for Healthier Salad Ingredients

Most health conscious people (including myself) love a great salad! Colorful salads made with a variety of vegetables are "supermeals" packed with nutrition, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and enzymes. Experts say that eating salad almost every day may be one of the healthiest eating habits you can adopt - and one of the simplest. If you frequently eat green salads, you will likely have higher blood levels of a handful of powerful antioxidants which help protect your body from damage caused by free radicals.

However, unfortunately not all salads are created equal.

1. Mayonnaise - Commercial mayonnaise contains eggs, oil, salt, vinegar, artificial flavors, and usually some type of sugary sweetener. It is an easy way to add unwanted fat and calories to a salad. Try this instead: Greek yogurt can be substituted in some recipes. If you are looking for a creamy salad dressing or topping, try blending avocado, lemon juice, water, and herbs together. It is delicious!

2. Croutons - Croutons are often a highly processed food. Many contain refined oils, artificial colors and flavors, as well as salt, and high-fructose corn syrup. Try this instead: Add a few tablespoons of raw almonds, sunflower seeds, or even kale chips over your salad for a nice crunch.

3. Processed meats (bacon, bacon bits, ham, etc.) - Processed meat like bacon and ham add fat, calories, sugar, and salt to an otherwise light meal. Try this instead: Add a leaner meat like grilled chicken, turkey, or salmon. Sautéed shiitake mushrooms, cooked beans, lentils, nuts, or seeds can make a "meatier" salad. You could even top a salad with a veggie burger patty. Grains like brown rice and quinoa are also great additions.

4. Processed cheese - Processed cheese is high in saturated fat, calories, and salt. A little cheese is fine, but when you can no longer see the lettuce under all the cheese topping your veggies, that's where you can run into problems. Try this instead: Goat cheese, feta, and mozzarella are great alternatives to processed American cheeses. If you don't eat dairy, you can get a great cheesy flavor from sprinkling some nutritional yeast on your salad which will also help pump up your vitamin B12 intake.

5. Fatty dressings - Creamy dressings like ranch, french, and 1000 island are all loaded with calories from unhealthy fat. The fat-free versions are usually packed with sugar to make up for the lack of fat...make sure you read food labels and ingredient lists! Try this instead: Topping your salad with a fresh or homemade salsa is a great way to get a flavor punch (and extra veggies!) to your salad. Mashed avocado with lemon juice and herbs is another great option to get that creamy texture. You can also combine olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette for a simple, delicious dressing. 

Read more at FSFP Health & Fitness Blog ...