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Are We Eating Too Much Salad?

posted: 08/25/15
by: Courtney Reimer
woman with salad
iStock

Everyday, well-meaning lunchers think they are making the right decision for their meal when they choose salad. But is it as healthy as we think? The answer is probably no -- for ourselves and the population at large.

A very compelling article from the Washington Post called "Why Salad is So Overrated" is making the rounds, largely because it challenges a firmly held notion that salad is among the most virtuous meals we can choose. Among the strong points it makes:

  1. "Salad" is often just meat and cheese with low-nutrient lettuce. And high-calorie dressing. As the article puts it: "Lots of what passes for salad in restaurants is just the same as the rest of the calorie-dense diabolically palatable food that's making us fat, but with a few lettuce leaves tossed in." And this image from the article of a salad with all of the lettuce removed says it all:
  2. Lettuce is not the healthy "vegetable" its made out to be. In fact, it's more water than vegetable: up to 97 percent.
  3. If you want to eat your vegetables, eat your vegetables. The author of the article, nutrition and science writer Tamar Haspel, instead recommends putting your veggie budget toward higher-nutrient items like broccoli, sweet potatoes or even selections from the frozen vegetable section of your grocery store.
  4. "Salad" isn't automatically synonymous with "low calorie." At some restaurants, salads clock in at 1,400 calories. An alternative Tamar recommends is choosing from the "lighter options" section that many chain restaurants are now implementing on their menus.
  5. Greens are often the primary culprit in food-borne illness outbreaks. The article cites a CDC study that shows leafy greens accounted for 22 percent of all food-borne illnesses from 1998-2008.
This is not to say you should eliminate salad from your diet -- if you had to chose between, say, another plate of lasagna or a bowl of salad, you're better off choosing the salad. Just be careful in assuming salad is always, 100 percent of the time, your best meal option.