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By Emily Smith

The worst salad toppings

Salads are the perfect meal to eat when maintaining a healthy lifestyle. They are a great way to ensure a daily dose of vitamins and minerals. But many of the most popular topping choices can quickly turn a light salad into a diet disaster.

Here are some of most notorious topping options:

Fried food

Putting any type of fried food on a salad should be avoided; watch out for descriptive words such as "battered," "crispy" or "crunchy" on a restaurant menu. Chicken, shrimp, fish and onions are examples of the most popular salad add-ins. A healthier option is to replace them with their grilled counterparts.

Processed meat

Many people are under the belief that processed turkey, ham, pepperoni and salami are healthy choices to add to their salad. These options are nearly always available on salad buffets. However, processed and packaged meats are full of sodium and add saturated fat to meals. Amazingly, a half cup of cubed, packaged ham punches in over 800 mg of sodium and a half cup of crumbled bacon can punch in 140 calories and 10 g of fat. A hard-boiled egg is a healthier protein alternative.

Creamy dressings

Putting creamy dressings on a salad is the quickest way to add unwanted calories and fat to a meal. With a serving size of two tablespoons, ranch dressing, a popular favorite, adds 140 calories and 14 grams of fat; Caesar dressing weighs in at 156 calories and 17 grams of fat. Many people add as much as four times that amount to their salad. A healthier option is to use either balsamic or red wine vinegar to dress a salad; vinaigrette is also a healthier choice.


Many salad bars have pickles, pepperoncini, green pimiento olives and banana peppers available. While these are very low in calories, they tend to be very high in sodium. Amazingly, three pepperoncini peppers can have a whopping 400 mg of sodium. Limit pickled foods, especially if you're on a low-sodium diet.

Creamy side salads

Creamy side salads, such as pasta, potato and tuna, are often located on the salad bar, which leads many dieters to believe they are a healthy choice. These are usually overloaded with mayonnaise, which adds a lot of unwanted calories. One cup of macaroni salad can hold up to 360 calories. These should be avoided altogether.


Cheese is a great source of protein and calcium. Nevertheless, many people put a huge amount on top of their salad. The key to enjoying cheese is moderation. Feta cheese is a good healthy option, along with fresh grated parmesan.

The "finishing touch" toppings

Croutons, fried tortilla strips, sunflower seeds and bacon bits are usually the "final touch" to the top of the salad, and are usually located beside the dressings. Croutons can have a ton of calories and sodium, while contributing zero nutritional benefit. Even imitation bacon bits can have up to 50 calories per serving. If you want to add crunch to your meal, a healthier choice would be to add a pack of whole wheat crackers or bread sticks, which are also usually located near the dressings.

A salad is a great meal choice, with many different flavor possibilities. But beware of the toppings that can wreak havoc on a diet plan. By being salad savvy, anyone can reap the rewards of a healthy and nutritious meal.

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