Last week, we looked at the motives behind the way we eat, and this week we're going to look at some actual food! I'm going to show you guys my favorite go-to meal.
I love salad. I remember only a few years ago, I would feel seriously deprived (mentally) if I had to eat a salad. I wanted food! It might have had some to do with the fact that I was pregnant or nursing for about 6.5 years straight. :) But at the moment (being neither!), I have no problems with eating salad for most meals. It's a much easier thing to do when you aren't feeding another human. (Lots of salad and nursing for several months is not a good combo, by the way...)
I believe that salad is one of the quickest, most filling, low calorie options you have to eat. Whether it's a side dish or the entree, you can eat a big portion of good, healthy greens, and fresh vegetables for very few calories. God gave us all these fresh foods to eat that are low in calories and packed with nutrients. It's so amazing!
In my big quart bowl of salad I am estimating that I have about 175 calories- 40 calorie of greens, about 40 calories of tomatoes, about 35 calories in feta, and about 60 calories in croutons. The croutons are definitely the splurge of the salad- I eat these for the extra carbs.
If I add a 3-4 oz chicken breast, about the size of a deck of cards, I add about 150 more calories.
So without dressing I am at about 325 calories. Dressing becomes the tipping point on whether the salad stays healthy or becomes a calorie bomb. I think this is one of the easiest places to go overboard on calories. You feel like you're eating very well, and so you choose any old dressing to top it off with. Ranch, italian, caesar dressing. Very tasty, but they completely cancel out the low-calorie effect of the salad. You might as well pour some butter on top of your salad! :P
Salad dressing is one of the easiest places to make healthier changes. These days, you have more reduced calorie options than ever before. Salad dressing choices take half of the length of an aisle at Wal-Mart these days. It's pretty unbelievable, really!
So let's do a dressing swap example:
Ranch dressing- for 2 tbsp- 140 calories and 14 grams of fat
Fat-free ranch dressing for 2 tbsp- 30 calories and 0 grams of fat
The difference is 110 calories for just 2 tablespoons of the same stuff. If you're thinking, but I can't give up my ranch for fat-free, it's terrible, My suggestion is that you change types of dressing. Don't stay with the same category of your favorite- go with a sweet dressing or something completely different you have no preferences in. If it makes you miserable or you feel deprived, you won't be able to stick with it long-term, so make sure you keep looking until you find something you like well enough to eat again and again.
Here are my current lower calorie favorites:
Raspberry chipotle- technically not a dressing- it's a marinade sauce. I add an equal part of white or red vinegar and mix it together. 2 tbsp- 45 calories, 0 fat.
Light raspberry vinaigrette- 50 calories, 3.5 grams of fat per 2 tbsp. (see that oil at the top? I pour it out before I use it). The calorie count has the oil included.
Light asian toasted sesame- 50 calories per 2 tbsp, 2.5 grams of fat.
One thing to remember- almost all store-bought dressings are made with high fructose corn syrup- including those above. The first few times you put your dressing on, make sure to measure it out in actual tablespoons and pour it on so you can get an idea of how much you are actually eating. Full-fat or low-fat, if you don't know how much you are consuming, you can easily add far too much dressing and take away all the good you're doing with eating better foods.
One of my projects next week is to create a tangy low calorie dressing without lots of sugar. Homemade dressing is so much cheaper too, you can save a ton of money by making your own. I have a few ideas I'm going to test out and if they work I will share them here with you! In the meantime, I found these recipes for ranch, french, and asian that sound yummy if you want to give them a try.
Salads are a great option for filling, healthy meals, but don't forget to pay attention to the little extras- quantity matters when it comes to croutons, cheeses, and especially salad dressings!
Do you have a favorite dressing or salad topping? I'd love to mix up my salad a little!