When you think of “eating healthy,” chances are the first thing you think of is a salad.
But you’re forgetting salads suck.
Why? First, they’re tasteless.
And except for that brief moment of kale hysteria in 2016, most people don’t really like greens such as arugula, escarole, romaine, and spinach.
Some may say they taste “slightly tangy” with “mellow bitterness” and a “peppery-sharp spiciness.” I say they’re bitter and often taste like dirt.
And the standard veggies that get added on top are the same you’ll find in every other thing you eat. Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers (well, pickles) are literally the default toppings for a freakin’ burger.
Oh, and if you’re not getting a salad from somewhere that’s focused on fresh ingredients, it’s probably premixed, from a bag, and almost certainly nasty. (We can all agree there’s no way Subway has good salads, right?)
Second, they’re bad for the environment.
Lettuce is often cited as the No. 1 source of vegetable food waste in the U.S. (and on an even unhappier note, the CDC says leafy, raw vegetables lead to an awful lot of food poisoning).
Third, they need “unhealthy” toppings to taste better.
Anyone who sells you a plain salad knows you’ll hate it. Even you know that when you’re ordering it.
So you opt for something new, different, and decidedly not healthy: dried cranberries (filled with sugar)? Tortilla strips? Mandarin oranges (canned in syrup)? Wonton noodles? Goat cheese? Pita chips?
Maybe after deciding to skip a sandwich and get a salad, you add the complimentary bread at the end. Maybe you even add croutons on top—you know, fried pieces of stale bread.
I once went to JustSalad (which sells things that aren’t just salad, and that makes me VERY UPSET), and it had Pirate’s Booty as an option—yeah, the cheese puffs. These aren’t crazy toppings either.
Fried onions, bacon, candied pecans, and blue cheese? That’s a standard wedge salad.
I hate this. It fools people who want to make a good choice into making a worse choice.
Fourth, they then get dressing on top.
This one’s bad. Salad dressing often has more calories than the rest of the salad itself!
For example, a lot of people order a Caesar salad as a healthier option, but they shouldn’t. It comes with cheese and croutons by default, and the dressing is a BEAST that’s loaded with calories. Dressings are typically oil-based, but there’s often cream added too—think of ranch, blue cheese, and (yup) Caesar. And two tablespoons can end up meaning more than 150 calories per salad.
Oh, and LOL to two tablespoons.
(One of my all-time favorite healthy-eating tips is what I call The Fun Fork Dip, where you ask for dressing on the side and then just dip your fork into the dressing as you eat the salad.)
Fifth, salads leave you hungry and frustrated—the exact opposite of how eating healthy should make you feel.
Let’s say you just ate a salad. OK, it tasted a liiittle bit like dirt, but you were “good” and didn’t add on tons of toppings and went light on the dressing. You’re feeling awesome.
Then two hours later you’re hungry again. The reason? Lettuces such as iceberg, romaine, and butterhead are almost all water (95-97 percent). The Washington Post once called lettuce nothing but “a vehicle to transport refrigerated water from farm to table.” All those standard veggies we talked about? They’re basically nutritionally and calorically zippo. Salads just end up being terrifically unfilling.
This is the opposite way of eating healthy in a sustainable way. You meant well, I know! But you can absolutely eat healthy and be satisfied… just probably not by eating salad.
Take bowls, for example. Now that’s the stuff! It’s not a new name for salads—just the opposite: It’s a clever way to trick people who think they want salad into eating something that’s actually good for them. Bowls feature awesome things such as healthy grains (quinoa, brown rice, wild rice), pulses (lentils, chickpeas, black beans), and protein (chicken, steak, even an egg on top for breakfast). There’s often salad in there too, but it’s the sidekick, not the hero.
Look, some people say they like salads and actually mean it. Truly fresh vegetables can make nearly any dish great. Olive oil and vinegar as dressing isn’t sexy, but it’s an underrated combo. Salads can definitely be good for you, of course. If you know what’s up.
But if you don’t like salad, eating it “to be healthy” is a mistake. Don’t be misled by all the women laughing alone with salad. They don’t laugh for long.
(For what it’s worth, I wrote this while eating a salad. Except it had quinoa. And chicken. And sweet potatoes. And a fork to dip into the spicy cashew dressing. It wasn’t bad.)