The Worst & Best Salad Ingredients

Want a healthier meal and more veggies? Go for salad. Seems simple enough, but salad bars are so elaborate these days, there are more hidden health dangers than you might think when you’re creating your own plate of goodness.

Here’s a go-to guide to make sure your healthy salad is really the healthiest it can be.

Lettuce Make The Right Choice

Choose: Romaine, spinach, or kale - which are some of the healthiest leafy greens

Skip: Iceberg, which has virtually no calories and little to no redeeming nutritional value

Color Your Plate: Veggies

Load Up: Broccoli (supplements fiber and Vitamin D plus fights cholesterol), carrots (support vision), tomatoes (battle cancer)

Moderate: Corn - in small quantities it contains beneficial fiber and vitamin C, but one half cup has 88 calories. Dried fruit is another tricky add-in as it is often sweetened with extra sugar

Pick Powerful Protein

Best: Grilled chicken, hard boiled egg, or pulses such as black beans and chickpeas

Worst: Ham (high in sodium), and pre-made tuna, and chicken or egg salad (usually made with large amounts of high-calorie mayonnaise)

Add Fruitful Health

Pile on: Any fresh berries – blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are excellent cancer-fighters

Pass on: Anything that looks like canned fruit - it is usually full of preservatives and processed sugars

Dress Lightly and Layer

Best: Olive oil (45 calories per tablespoon but also packed with good fat to lower cholesterol and help your heart) plus your favorite vinegar, like apple cider vinegar (only three calories per tablespoon)

Worst: Creamy dressings, such as ranch and bleu cheese (75 calories per tablespoon) and even balsamic vinaigrette or non-creamy Italian (about 45 calories per tablespoon)

Fat That Won’t Make You Fat

Best: Avocado, nuts, and seed - these will help keep you satiated and are incredibly important for a balanced diet

Worst: Processed cheese that look artificially colored, or say “low sodium” - they are likely to have processed additives to supplement flavor. If you need a cheesy fix, pick big flavor cheeses in small amounts - cheeses with minimal additives include parmesan, cottage, swiss, and feta

Be Wary of Sneaky Health Spoilers

Bacon bits: High sodium, processed, caloric, no nutritional value

Croutons: High sodium, high calorie; if they have whole-wheat or whole-grain croutons, a sprinkle is not so bad - the same goes for tortilla strips

Olives: Fairly high sodium across the board, with green olives as the lowest in calories and sodium

What seems yummy at the time might not be great for your health in the long run, so make a few smarter choices each time you hit the salad bar. You’ll still be satisfied, and you won’t sacrifice taste.