In last week’s blog post (The Price of Food – Dolla Dolla Bills Ya’ll), we discussed the term “health halo,” which is a phenomenon that states there is a halo effect on certain foods or brands. This halo causes them to be perceived as healthy – when that may not be the case. And there is no other worse culprit other than salad itself. (Healthy Salad? Those words just go together – right????)
It’s that “health halo” logic that comes into play when someone orders a salad. The word salad is associated with a healthy menu choice – no matter what’s actually on it. The word “salad” creates a “health halo” effect, even if the leafy greens are covered with bacon, avocado, crispy chicken, shredded cheese, hard boiled eggs and a creamy dressing. …. You see what happened there???
So… How unhealthy IS that so-called healthy salad??
It all depends on what you actually put ON your lettuce. If you opt for a salad as a healthy choice for lunch or dinner buuuuut it consists of mostly meat, cheese, nuts, and creamy dressing on top of some leaves, you’re doing it all wrong. A lot of what passes for a healthy salad these days is as calorie dense as some foods that you may think of as unhealthy. (But with a few green leaves tossed in.)
Here’s some food for thought when it comes to salads:
Salad Vegetables are Low in Nutrition
When salad ingredients are ranked on the nutrient quality index (a way to rate foods based on how much of 27 nutrients they contain) four of the five lowest-ranking vegetables (by serving size) are salad ingredients: cucumbers, radishes, iceberg lettuce and celery.
Salad is NOT a Vegetable – Salad is Water!
Lettuces like iceberg, romaine, and butterhead are almost all water: 95-96%! Spinach ranks at about 91% water. AND Kale, collard greens, and arugula are slightly higher at a whopping 85-92% water.
A Lot of Salads at Chain Restaurant are Loaded with Calories!!
Of course, this isn’t to say that ALL salads are worthless! Just keep in mind what you put on them and remember – balance is key!!!