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Not Your Mother’s Chicken Salad

Did you know that in the 1950’s there were still diet trends in America? Yep, even in the 1950’s, people were trying to lose weight. Doing a little research on the topic (and by research I mean Googling) made me see all the crazy  techniques Americans have employed to reach an ideal weight. But perhaps the story that stuck with me most was the concept of eating salads to lose weight. Why? Because it still resonates with us today. It was in the 1950’s when the trend emerged of eating canned tuna or chicken salad  on a bed of iceberg lettuce. And it’s by no surprise that every time I turn around, I see a friend or family member chowing down on some lettuce to shed a few pounds.

Let’s get something clear though: OF COURSE I’m going to encourage you to eat salads. They are a fantastic way to eat your veggies and meet your daily nutritional requirements, and yes, they do help you loose weight. BUT (and there’s always a but), salad must be done right for it to be effective.

The Problem With Salad

  • Not picking the right lettuce: What greens do you normally make a salad out of? Do you use kale, arugula, or spinach? So often I see people making salad out of iceberg lettuce. And if there’s one vegetable you should try to avoid, it’s iceberg lettuce. Leafy greens, on the other hand, are packed with vitamins, minerals, and folate–and they have almost the same calorie content! Instead of sacrificing on taste, take this opportunity to improve nutrition and taste.
  • Using a pesticide-laden, GMO, fake a$$ dressing: This is another pet peeve. When I first embarked on my health and fitness journey, I’ll admit that I did use light or low-calorie salad dressings. But as I did more research, I realized these seemingly healthy alternatives are really just as bad, and often laden with hydrogenated oils, refined sugar, and artificial ingredients. While the calorie content of these foods may be lower, your risk of obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and all sorts of other health problems is actually higher. Instead of bottled salad dressings, opt for something simple like oil and vinegar/lemon juice with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
  • Topping your salad with too many fatty ingredients: I love blue cheese, I love dried goji berries, and I love raw walnuts. But I certainly wouldn’t put all of these toppings on my salad–that would defeat the purpose of eating salad to control my weight and stay healthy! It’s no surprise the typical salad you order at a restaurant often has more calories than say a burger and fries; overloading your salad with high-fat, high-sugar toppings might be a party in your mouth, but won’t be a party for your waistline. So by all means, go for the feta or pecans or golden raisins. But choose one fun ingredient and save the rest for another salad.

Do Salad Right

Here’s an example of a great salad you can easily make at home. I love the combination of flavors with this dish!

Not Your Mom’s Chicken Salad

Ingredients (Serves 2):

  • 5 ounces chicken breast, poached
  • 3 Tbsp plain greek yogurt (You can use canola mayonnaise, avacado, pesto, or even a little real organic mayonnaise)
  • 3 Tbsp dried cranberries (Try cherries or even goji berries)
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 2-3 Tbsp minced parsley
  • 4 cups spinach or mixed greens of your choosing.

Dice the poached chicken and place in a bowl. Add the cranberries, carrots, greek yogurt, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and place over your bed of greens!

chicken salad

Note how we avoided the three salad mistakes I previously mentioned. Using spinach or mixed greens instead of iceberg packs an extra nutritional punch. Instead of adding cheese AND nuts AND dressing, I stuck to dried cranberries and the greek yogurt as my main sources of sugar and fat. And because this salad is so moist, you won’t even miss the dressing! Also remember there are plenty of ways to tweak this recipe. I’m often guilty of using leftover turkey to make this after Thanksgiving! Try using different veggies or fix-ins for a sweet or savory version. It’s your salad and it’s your body, so if anything take this recipe as a template for all your future salads.

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