10 Things You Should Never Add to Your Salad if You're Eating Healthy

Fried chicken salad bowl AI image

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Salad Daze

Salads are a great addition to your diet, especially if you're trying to stick to a healthy New Year's resolution. But a lot of the ingredients that make salad taste amazing also add tons of fat, calories, and sugar, negating the nutritional benefits of fresh vegetables. 

To avoid creating a Cheesecake Factory-style, 1,800-calorie salad, be mindful of these 10 common salad toppings. If you're not careful, they could push your salad from healthful to harmful.

Salad with Mandarin oranges. Traditional Chinese salad with thinly sliced ribbon lettuce, red cabbage, carrots and fried crispy wonton noodles. Cuisine served on Chinese New Years.

1. Deep Fried Crunchy Bits

Of course those tortilla strips, wonton strips, and crunchy noodles are delicious — they're deep fried. That adds a lot of extra fat, calories, and sodium for not much of a flavor boost. Instead, add crunch to your salads with baked chips, plain nuts, or extra crunchy veggies like celery or jicama.

A bowl of Caesar Salad with croutons and cheese on table

2. Croutons

The calories, saturated fat, and sodium in store-bought croutons can add up fast. Plus, they're almost always made with white bread instead of whole grain, so they won't keep you full. If you must have croutons, try making your own with whole wheat bread, minimal amounts of olive oil, and plenty of seasoning like garlic and herbs. 

Homemade Organic Ranch Dressing
Cobb  salad Blue cheese avocado egg bacon tomato grilled chicken
Carolyn Sandgren Kempf/istockphoto
Caramelized or candied pecans

5. Candied Nuts

Nuts add healthy fats and a satisfying crunch to salads, but many nuts marketed specifically for salads are actually glazed in sugar, butter, and oil. Stick with plain, dry-roasted, or raw nuts — like slivered almonds or chopped walnuts — for fiber and protein. 

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Black Bean and Corn Salad
LauriPatterson / istockphoto

6. Corn

You may think of corn as a vegetable, but the kernels are really a starchy carbohydrate, just like potatoes. It's not a terrible addition to your salad (and there are plenty of great corn recipes out there), but you'll want to limit it if you're trying to keep carbs down. Black beans or chickpeas might give you the same kind of satisfaction with more protein and fiber.

Kale and Romaine Pasta Caesar Salad

7. Pasta

If you're adding more salads to your diet for health reasons, you'll want to avoid adding white pasta. Pasta takes up space where more lettuce and vegetables could go, and they're a refined carbohydrate. If you want to add grains to your salad, look for whole grain options instead, like quinoa or wild rice. 

Crispy chicken salad

8. Fried Chicken

Lean proteins are great in hearty dinner salads, but as soon as you cook them with a carb-heavy breading in hot oil, you're going way overboard with calories, fat, and carbohydrates. Skip the fried chicken tenders and opt for grilled chicken instead, or add a piece of baked salmon for extra omega-3 fatty acids. 

A plate of healthy avocado almond spinach salad

9. Dried Fruit

Not all fruit is as good for you as you'd think. Dried fruits that are often found in salads, like Craisins, raisins, and apricots, are packed full of sugar and calories. Just opt for fresh fruit like berries and grapes if you like that pop of sweetness in your salads. 

Vegetable Salad Ranch

10. Fat Free Dressing

Remember the anti-fat health craze of the 1990s? Many food manufacturers replaced fat with tons of sugar and additives, which we all know now wasn't the best idea. It may seem counterintuitive, but bottled fat free dressing can be just as unhealthy as full-fat ranch and other creamy dressings thanks to added sugar and artificial ingredients.