The prevailing assumption is that by swapping a burger or fried chicken for a salad, you have to come out ahead. But do we really come out ahead? It depends.

If you research the nutrition information the calorie content of your salad may rock your world. Salads aren’t always what they are cracked up to be.

What you put in your salad matters. Before you eat another salad, check out my “diet derailer” list.

7 Salad Toppings that are Sabotaging Your Diet

Bacon Bits:
We already know bacon isn’t the most nutritious food but when you’re eating a plate full of lettuce it’s easy to reason that a little won’t hurt :). 2 tablespoons is ‘only’ 50 calories. The challenge is it’s easy to get carried away with bacon bits! Before you know it, you can easily rack up 3-4 tablespoons pushing the total to 75-100 calories.

Tam’s Tip: If you love bacon (like I do), add 1 level tablespoon to your salad and stop there or skip it altogether. You can top with turkey instead.

Croutons:
10 garlic croutons weigh in at 100 calories. Not only that, croutons are refined carbohydrates (a food group we’d like to minimize) and are often high in sodium. Like bacon bits, they are hard to portion control; easily contributing 150-200 calories per salad.

Tam’s Tip: Crumble up two small multi-grain crackers, sprinkle them over your salad and save about 75 calories.

Creamy Dressings:
Our favorites – Blue cheese, Thousand Island, French, Ranch, Honey Mustard, and Caesar – taste great but pack a whopping 60-80 calories per teaspoon! Plus, let’s face it – adding little here and there really adds up! The next thing you know, you’re at 180-240 calories easy.

Tam’s Tip: Use a small amount of extra-virgin olive oil with balsamic vinaigrette instead. If you aren’t ready to part with your fav just yet, look for the fat-free salad version and aim for <5g of sugar per serving. Or dip your fork in the full-fat version and drizzle it over the salad to lessen the damage.

Fried Protein:
It’s easy to convince ourselves that forgoing the fries and a bun makes the fried chicken salad a better choice…until you consider that a very small ½ cup of fried chicken strips is a shocking 190 calories. Fried shrimp is even higher at 274 calories per ½ cup.

Tam’s Tip: If you really want the fried chicken sandwich, you may be better off eating it! A Chick-fil-a Chicken Sandwich on wheat with no butter will run you approximately 400 calories, the same as the Cobb Salad without any dressing!

Cheddar cheese:
Get this – just a ½ cup of cheddar cheese – the amount added to many large restaurant salads, contains 18 grams of fat and 225 calories!

Tam’s Tip: Substitute cheddar with a ½ cup crumbled feta cheese and save 135 calories – even more if you find a low-fat version.

Tortilla Shells:
While the exact numbers vary by brand, one large taco salad shell could contain anywhere from 250-400 calories. More than half of those calories may come from fat and account for as much as one-third of your daily fat allowance.

Tam’s Tip: Eat only half the shell (or less) and skip the high-fat ingredients like ground beef and sour cream.

Craisins:
Craisins, a term used to describe dried cranberries, add a delightful flavor to salads but contain both added sugar and oil. Like raisins, craisins tend to be high in calories because they have high sugar content. 1/4 cup is 130 calories and an incredible 33 grams of carbohydrates, of which 29 grams (the equivalent of 7 teaspoons) are sugar.

Tam’s Tip: Save major calories by swapping craisins for fresh fruit like apple slices or strawberries so that you can actually use your “sugar allowance” on something more fun!

It’s sad but true, your salad habit may be backfiring on you. Like the buzz words “natural”, “fresh”, “fat-free”, “sugar-free”, and “organic”, salad is often instantly associated with healthy. Unfortunately, our waistlines are paying for it.