Step over those salad traps

A few years ago, a salad meant lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and maybe a little bit of salad cream if you were lucky. Well, things have changed. Nowadays, the lettuce and tomatoes have taken a backseat to a salad trap laden buffet which is likely to include pasta, rice, couscous, roasted vegetables and nuts all smothered in an array of dressings with lots of weird and wonderful ingredients.

What we often forget is that a plate of 'salad' is more than likely brimming over with calories and fat due to all that mayonnaise and oily dressing.

If greens aren't your thing, what else is on offer? Well, we took a look at 4 salad selections for the carb-crazy, the mayo-maniac, the would-be chef and the veggie fanatic to see who comes off best in the cal and fat stakes.

Salad 1: Carb-crazy

Salad-cruncher 1 is starving. How could a pile of rabbit food ever fill anyone? So number 1 goes for the carbs in a big way. Spoonfuls of potato, pasta and rice salad all make their way onto number 1's plate, as well as a bread roll with butter for good measure. To add a little colour, number 1 adds a forkful of leaves and a cherry tomato.

The verdict

With just one tablespoonful each of these salads, muncher 1 will have clocked up a total of 240 calories (not bad) but over 16g of fat. Add in the roll with butter (420 cals and 15g of fat) and this brings their total to 660 calories and over 30g of fat.

Swapping the roll with butter for a wholegrain roll with low-fat spread will make all the difference to this salad plate with a massive saving of 260 cals and 10g of fat. The extra fibre in the roll also makes it more filling than a white roll so our carb-crazy contender might even be able to swap one of those mayo-rich salads for extra greenery.

Salad 2: The mayo-maniac

Salad-cruncher number 2 has a strong start by going for the greens but then add a spoonful each of egg mayonnaise, tuna mayonnaise and 2 slices of white bread to scoop these up. Our mayo maniac also has an extra spoonful to help those greens go down a bit easier.

The verdict

Mountains of mayo have sent contestant 2's fat intake through the roof. Each spoonful of tuna and egg mayo has over 280 cals and around 27g of fat. Add in that extra dollop on the greens and salad 2 has a massive 770 calories and, wait for it, 78g of fat. With the 2 slices of white bread, number 2 has a grand total of 890 calories and 79g of fat.

Cutting down on the mayo is a sensible start here. Replacing that creamy texture with cottage cheese or a cracker with low fat cream cheese instead of egg mayonnaise will save around 180 calories and 26g of fat, while a low-fat dressing instead of mayo cuts the cals by another 200 and the fat by over 20g.

Salad 3: Would-be chef

Salad-cruncher 3, who enjoys Ready Steady Cook, comes over all chef-fy with a salad of rocket topped with pine nuts, bacon pieces, Parmesan cheese, all dressed with a lug of the finest olive oil and Balsamic vinegar. A ciabatta roll rounds off this gourmet plate.

The verdict

This salad isn't quite as harmless as it looks. With the bacon, cheese, oil and pine nuts all giving over 10g of fat each, Salad 3 clocks up a total of 56g of fat and over 700 calories. Yikes.

The first thing to go here is the bacon. Using a smaller amount of bacon (how about using a smoked or strong-flavoured bacon?) or even turkey rashers could cut the cals by over 120 and the fat by nearly 14g.

Halving the amounts of these strongly flavoured ingredients and using a low-fat Balsamic dressing instead of oil would be just as tasty while saving 90 cals and 10g of fat.

Salad 4: The veggie fanatic

Salad-cruncher number 4 is really working on including more fruit and vegetables in their diet so they make a bee-line for the bowls of veggie salads – coleslaw, Florida salad and the classic Waldorf salad. They go back to their table very proud of themselves.

The verdict

Their intentions were good and they will certainly have increased those veg portions, but the 30g of fat from all that mayo lets them down. But 300 calories isn't bad going when you consider that each portion of salad counts as a veg portion and some of the fat is good fat from peanuts.

Cutting down on the mayo-based salads will help cut the fat content while taking salads with beans, carrot, beetroot or other veggies will increase veg intake just as well as those rich dishes.

*If you're not careful, the salad bar can be your one stop-shop for all the fat and calories you can eat. But a few smart choices can stop you falling into a salad daze these summer days.

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Thanks to tescodiets.com who have provided this article.