The Art (and Science) of a Healthy Salad


Brace yourself...my inner nerd is showing for this one...

Summer equals salads. In our haste to whip up a healthy salad...piling on the nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, egg...we might be indulging in too much of a good thing. Yes, even healthy salads have a tipping point.

Take this salmon salad I made for lunch. For the salmon, I brushed it lightly with olive oil, sprinkled it with my special salmon seasoning and threw it on the grill. I tossed together two handfuls of mixed greens, chopped red pepper, and a chiffonade (fancy way of saying strips) of mint and basil from my garden. To really amp it up, I could have added toasted almond slivers, 1/4 avocado, maybe some sunflower seeds too. Sounds good, right? And it is - all of it is good for you. But, thinking about what my body needs in terms of fat, I opted for only a 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and some champagne vinegar seasoned with sea salt and pepper.

Why did I do that? Because 6oz of salmon already has 22 grams of healthy fats. Add the olive oil and now I'm at about 27 grams. My body only needs roughly 45g of fat per day. Even though all healthy fat add-ons are good and healthy, my body is just fine without them for this salad.

To help you build a healthy salad that best serves your body, first let's figure out how much fat you need daily. This isn't an exact science, so use this as a grain-of-salt guide.

Here's the math...

1. Find Your Total Calories Needed Per Day to Maintain Your Weight

  • Active Males: Your Weight x 15

  • Active Females: Your Weight x 12

  • Inactive Males: Your Weight x 13

  • Inactive Females: Your Weight x 10

2. Find Your Total Fat Needed Per Day in Grams

  • Total Calories x .30 (30% of your calories should come from fat) = Total Fat Calories Needed

  • Divide fat calories by 9 (there are 9 cal/gram of fat) = Total Fat Needed Per Day in Grams

Example - Active Female Weighing 100lb

  • 100 x 12 = 1200 calories needed per day

  • 1200 x .30 = 360 fat calories needed per day

  • 360/9 = 40 grams of fat needed per day

Keeping total fat grams needed per day in mind, I created The Art & Science of a Healthy Salad Chart to help you build a salad. To simplify, I used an average of 5 grams of fat per serving for the healthy fat add-ins - olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado and egg.

So in a salad that uses a low fat tuna steak (.5g fat per 3oz) as its protein source, all additional healthy fats are welcome. Where as my salmon salad already had 22g of fat from the salmon alone, I opted out of all add-ons but the olive oil. For dressings, I simply toss olive oil, vinegar or lemon, salt, pepper and herbs on my salad and mix.

While counting calories and fat grams or weighing my food or myself are not practices I prefer, I like to use these concepts as guidelines for helping me make smart choices.

If you're wondering, this whole salad took me 15 minutes to whip up and about 10 to eat. If you're having trouble finding 25 minutes in your day to eat healthfully, join me for my 30-Day Tough Love Intensive! My wellness program teaches you how to eat well and stay well. It's like wellness training camp! Don't let summer celebrations get in the way. Life will not stop for you to stop your old habits. Click for details.

"I feel really, really good. Stronger, leaner, more energetic,

more patient and calmer (especially in my head) than I did 30 days ago."

- testimonial from my spring 30-Day program

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