Hail Caesar or fail Caesar?

Barbara Wilson

With summer coming to a close, there is still time to do the right thing, get down the shops and finally fulfill your good intentions of buying yourself the makings of a crisp and healthy bowl of salad. And why not - no slaving over the stove, ready in seconds and lovely to your waist-line… or is it?

Well, that depends on the salad – what you put in it and how you dress it up. The salad dressing you choose can make the difference between a dream dinner and a tossing your weight loss goals along with the lettuce.

Let’s take a look at my favourite: a classic Caesar - Romaine or cos lettuce, Parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts, croutons and, of course, Caesar dressing. But is this really a healthy option? Come on, it’s a salad – how bad can it be?

Well, the lettuce costs nothing – 20 calories max for a generous serving. Adding a tablespoon of grated Parmesan brings us up to a mere 60 calories and 4g of fat – so far, so good. But this is where the trouble starts – that tablespoon of pine nuts triples my calories and fat to 170 calories and almost 15g of fat! And they look so innocent!

Croutons made by frying one measly slice of bread now bumps this total up to 320 calories and 24g of fat! But the icing on the cake has to be that tablespoon of Caesar dressing – my ‘healthy choice’ salad is now topping the calories scales at over 410 calories and 34g of fat. That’s a whole day’s worth of fat.

And 410 calories. Do you know how long that will take to burn off? Around half an hour of rugby, forty minutes of running, swimming or football, an hour of aerobics or TWO HOURS of strength training or leisurely cycling.

And that’s just the basic salad – adding half a tin of anchovy fillets will add another 70 calories and 5g of fat while a couple of crispy rashers of bacon will increase your calories count by over 200 calories and 17g of fat – and that’s grilled bacon, not even fried!

But can you still have your salad and eat it too? Of course you can! Making just a couple of changes will make the difference between Hail Caesar and Fail Caesar!

Stick with the lettuce and cheese – Parmesan packs plenty of flavour as well as protein and calcium. Unfortunately, there really is nothing quite like pine nuts for that unmistakable texture and flavour but halving the amount will, funnily enough, half the calories.

Baking or toasting your croutons instead of frying them saves a whopping 80 calories and 9g of fat while switching to a low fat dressing will save 66 calories and another 9g of fat per tablespoon – Cardini’s full fat Caesar dressing, for example, is a massive 60% fat while their low fat version (which is every bit as tasty) is only 1% fat.

The whole salad comes to only 210 calories and 10g of fat! So what would you rather have? The full monty or the low fat remake of the classic Caesar with 200 fewer calories and 25 fewer grams of fat?

To really make an emperor of a salad, you can include all sorts of optional extras, all at very low calorie cost: a tablespoon of diced carrots, celery or pepper has next to no calories, half a dozen olives have around 20 calories, a spoonful of chickpeas has only 40 calories and the same amount of raisins will provide 80 calories (as well as being one of those all-important fruit portions).

Start a diet plan at tescodiets.com

Thanks to tescodiets.com who have provided this article.