The heat wave continues and at lunchtime they crave fresh dishes that are simple to prepare, such as salads. If we want them to be light and healthy, not everything goes among their ingredients. Combine high-fiber, virtually calorie-free lettuce leaves with deli meats loaded with salt and saturated fat; of highly processed sauces made with sugar or other products such as packaged fried onions is an error that only leads to self-deception if what we wanted was to prepare a healthy starter.
Next, we list the ingredients with which we must be more careful if we want light salads, as well as some tips so that they do not become a boring and tasteless dish:
Adding cold cuts can be a way to add more protein, iron, and vitamin E to salads. But we must not forget that in the end they are processed meats rich in saturated fats, cholesterol, calories, salt and additives, and that the WHO advises against consuming more than 200 grams per week. “We can prepare salads that include them, but occasionally,” recommends Mireia Cervera, nutritionist at Teresa Carles Healthy Foods, who adds that it is also important to choose meat products with a better nutritional profile, such as Iberian ham, cooked ham and turkey or chicken breast.
Yogurt sauces, mustards, mayonnaise or ketchups that are sold in supermarkets (even those that have claims such as Light or without sugar) are ingredients that will almost always worsen the nutritional profile of our salads. On the other hand, those that we prepare at home with food from our pantry will not. “The more processed a product is, the less likely it is to be healthy,” warns nutritionist Montse Folch. “But nothing happens if we decorate a salad with homemade mayonnaise or pink sauce, as long as we don’t go overboard with the quantities.”
We can also make dressings with basic healthy fats, such as extra virgin olive oil, tahini or avocado, which will absorb the nutrients from the vegetables. To give them more flavor and aroma, Cervera proposes taking advantage of our spice rack and adding oregano, Provencal herbs or basil, as well as incorporating some acid such as lemon, orange, lime or grapefruit. “Another option may be to prepare a sauce with natural yogurt, a splash of extra virgin olive oil and spices,” he points out. Vinegar is another element that will flavor our vegetable dish, but we must be careful with balsamic vinegar reductions, which can contain a lot of sugar.
honeys and syrups
Those who enjoy combining sweet and salty may have filled their salad with syrup or honey on more than one occasion. These ingredients may be a bit more nutritious than white sugar, but they’re not exactly healthy. Specifically, honey is made up of 8% water and 82% sugars, most of which are free, and provides empty calories. If we do not want to do without this extra sweetness in our salads, Cervera proposes adding seasonal fruit, such as watermelon, melon and cherries or also nuts, which provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Dried fruits also sweeten many traditional recipes and, in fact, their nutrient content is similar to that of fresh fruit. But, the experts agree, they can have more sugar and less vitamin C, which is destroyed during the drying process of the food.
This product is made with very abundant fish and, in general, little appreciated, which is deboned, crumbled and washed several times to remove fat and other remains. The result is a dough that is mixed with other industrial ingredients to improve its conservation and structure, which we then find in stores and supermarkets in the form of sticks, prawns and even crab legs.
There are better and worse quality surimis, but ultimately it is an ultra-processed fish meat and there are other healthier and lighter ways to add protein to our dishes. For example, canned fish, among which, according to Cervera, it is better to choose those made with olive oil, preferably extra virgin, “says Cervera.
Croutons and fried onion
Their fat, calorie, and salt content make croutons unsuitable for a healthy salad. If we like the crunchy texture they add to the dish, we recommend choosing versions made with whole-grain bread or other ingredients such as nuts or freeze-dried fruits such as apples, strawberries and raspberries.
The dietitian-nutritionist Montse Folch proposes that if we add fried onions, it should not be the packaged one that is sold in supermarkets, but that we cook it at home and use it moderately due to the high caloric intake of fried onions. Even more so if we are overweight and following a slimming diet.
If the cheese chosen is of quality, it is perfectly compatible with a healthy snack, and it will also add a touch of flavor that may make us want to eat a salad more often. But it is not recommended to add it, Folch warns, if we have cholesterol problems. “In that case, the fatty matter that makes up our dishes should not exceed 20%. There are also less caloric cheeses, recalls Cervera, such as fresh Burgos and mozzarella, which will be more suitable if we want the dish to be light.
In short, the important thing when preparing a salad is that most of the ingredients are vegetables of different types. “The more variety of vegetables and colors, the better, because there will be more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants,” says Mireia Cervera, who recalls that if we want it to be a unique dish, it is important to add proteins such as legumes, meat, fish, eggs and dairy, in addition to healthy fats such as virgin olive oil or avocado.
“Everything can be included, but we must remember that as age increases, portions must be reduced, especially at dinner,” concludes Folch.