Beware the imposter salad: The one filled with calories and laden with fat and sodium.

“When it comes to ordering a salad, there are three words that will likely guarantee a calorie overload: Caesar, taco and crispy. These options usually have several items that pump up the calorie count higher than a healthy meal should be,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Julie Stefanski, spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Another calorie culprit is the chef salad, said registered dietitian nutritionist Amy Jamieson-Petonic of University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.

“If you consume a 600- to 700-calorie chef salad with ham, turkey, cheese and bacon, this can be as many calories as a double cheeseburger,” Jamieson-Petonic said.

“Although salads seem healthy, it is important to be mindful of sneaky ingredients that can increase their calorie and fat content,” said Jonathan Valdez, owner of Genki Nutrition and media representative for New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Be sure to eat salads based on healthy greens such as romaine, kale, spinach and arugula. Avoid iceberg lettuce, which has little nutritional value.”

“Add in lots of non-starchy veggies like mushrooms, tomatoes, cucumber, radishes or roasted vegetables if available,” Stefanski said. “Add enough protein to keep your energy level up by including about 4 ounces of a low-fat meat or three-fourths’ cup beans like chickpeas or kidney beans.”

Other good protein options include tuna or salmon, grilled chicken breast, chopped hard-boiled egg or even a small portion of flank steak, Stefanski said.

If watching calories, keep hard-boiled eggs to one per salad, Jamieson-Petonic said.

“If you are using lunch meats, look for low-fat versions of turkey, chicken and ham, as opposed to salami,” she said.
Consider skipping the cheese if you’ve already added meat to your salad, Stefanski said. However, Parmesan or cottage cheeses are better, lower-fat choices, Valdez said.
Skip the breading
A taco salad’s fried bowl itself has 420 calories, Stefanski said: “That’s more calories than four slices of bread. If ordering a taco salad choose only two out of the high-fat toppings — such as sour cream, cheese, guacamole — as the meat itself is also a source of fat.”

Another way to cut calories is to skipped breaded meats.

“Choosing crispy chicken over grilled strips adds another 200 calories just from the breading,” Stefanski said.
Eat to feel full
A healthy protein choice with a small amount of fat will help you feel full longer.

“Nuts, seeds, bacon and cheese all contain fat with a small amount of protein. Keep these toppings to less than 2 tablespoons and enjoy them at different meals rather than all on the same salad,” Stefanski said.

When adding grains or starch like quinoa, sweet potato or corn, don’t let portion exceed 1 cup of per serving, Valdez said.
Dressing tip
Don’t drown your lettuce, Jamieson-Petonic said.

“A serving of salad dressing is 1 to 2 tablespoons, like the size of your thumb pointing up,” she said.

Beware of high-fat dressings based with mayo, sour cream and cheese, as well as low-fat dressings that compensate with added sugar — and inevitably added calories — Valdez said.