I’ve been told that salad dressings have a high fat content. What are the dressings I should avoid?
Pouring on rich and creamy salad dressings to add some flavour to your bowl of salads can negate the low calories and healthy advantage of the salad. The most fattening salads to watch out for on any menu are the Russian salad (with mayonnaise), the Thousand Island dressing, cheese-based and pesto-based (cheese, corn flour and pine nuts) dressings, and the Waldorf salad (whipped cream).
Apart from the dressing, ingredients such as deep-fried croutons, potatoes, bacon, corn starch, cheese, butter, sugary canned fruits and vegetables can sabotage a low calorie healthy salad and should thus be avoided.
What does an ideal healthy salad consist of? What vegetables/ herbs/dressings should I use?
An ideal healthy salad should be prepared with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, cauliflower, French beans, lettuce, broccoli, radish and onion. You can also add olive oil, lime, yoghurt and herbs like garlic, parsley or basil. Avoid excess salt, sugar, starch and fats. You can even turn your salad into a complete meal by mixing chopped vegetables, nuts and a bit of protein like beans, chicken, fish, sprouts or tofu. If you like including croutons in the salad, try toasting the whole wheat bread in the oven with some herbs and garlic rather than frying it.
In a nutshell, the ideal salad should essentially be low in fat content and high in protein, fibre, essential vitamins and minerals.
Are bottled salad dressings available in supermarkets, healthy?
That purely depends on what you choose to pick up from the supermarket. Bottled dressings are often laden with saturated and trans fats, high levels of sodium and sweeteners or additives like artificial flavours, colours and preservatives. Homemade dressings are always a better bet than mass-produced ones as the ingredients are available at home. Among commercially processed dressings, try to opt for olive oil-based dressings without artificial ingredients and with fresh seasonings and herbs.
Is it true that salads curb hunger, and help lose weight?
Yes, salads with fruits and vegetables as the main ingredients are exceptionally rich in fibre and water, which add bulk to your meals and fill your stomach. They curb your hunger and assisting in weight loss. Furthermore, eating a salad a day is a convenient way to improve your daily nutrient intake as the raw vegetables in the salad offer the benefits of fibre and antioxidants for better digestion and boosting immunity.
Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and the founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre.