Is Your Salad Lunch Really Healthy?

ost people order a salad when they’re trying to be healthy, and the truth is that a salad meal is far healthier than a meal like mac and cheese or chili cheese fries. However, is your salad lunch REALLY healthy? How healthy is it? Read on to find out the truth about your salad…

It’s Not Always Clean

A lot of the veggies that go into your salad are on the “Dirty Dozen” list, a list of foods that contain high traces of pesticides and chemicals. If you’re not careful, you may just find that your salad can actually harm your health. According to one article, the pesticides in spinach, for example, can lower your sperm count. The same article stated that tomatoes can contain up to four different types of pesticides! If you’re going to eat salad, it’s a good idea to consider using organic vegetables in order to avoid contact with these strong, potentially dangerous chemicals.

It’s Still High in Calories

Let’s be clear: the salad itself is fairly low in calories, but it’s everything you add to the salad that makes it high-calorie. Lettuce is mostly water and fiber, and it contains only a few calories per serving. But when you start adding on the extras—bacon bits, cheese, croutons, ham cubes, chicken slices, and so on—the calorie count starts to rise. Things get really out of control if you use cream-based dressings like Ranch or Caesar. If you really want to make your salad “low-calorie”, stick with the vegetables only and a vinegar-based dressing. That’s the only way to avoid all those extra calories.

It Needs Better Nutrient Balance

As we mentioned above, lettuce contains a lot of water and fiber but not a whole lot in the way of actual nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Raw tomatoes are rich in Vitamin C, but not much more.  Cucumbers are another water-rich veggie that won’t give you a whole lot of added nutrients. Corn is loaded with starch but low in proper nutrients. As you can see, a basic salad isn’t exactly nutrient-rich. To make it healthy and really pack in the vitamins and minerals, you have to make sure to get plenty of color—especially dark, leafy greens. A spinach or kale salad has far more antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals than a lettuce salad. Add in beets, carrots, and other colorful foods to get more antioxidants.

It’s Not Enough

Having a salad for lunch doesn’t mean you can avoid eating veggies the rest of the day. A lot of people struggle with eating veggies, so they believe that just having a salad is enough to get them through. Even if you eat a huge plate of salad, you’re still only getting 2-4 of the 9 servings of veggies and fruits you need every day. That’s less than half of the dietary fiber your body needs, not to mention all those other critical nutrients that can only come from raw foods. Having a salad is a good start, but you need to get other veggies—including cooked veggies—throughout the rest of your day.

It’s Not Going to Fill You Up

Or, at least it won’t fill you up as much as you thought. The fiber in lettuce is digested very quickly, so your body will process that salad within an hour or so. You may find yourself feeling hungry faster than you would after eating cooked veggies. Salad makes a good starter, but you’d do well to add other veggies to each meal in addition to that salad in order to see real results!

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