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The Freshman 15

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Leanne Ely, CNC: I met a young lady who was complaining about the "freshman 15" that she has gained thus far her freshman year at a university here in North Carolina. She couldn't understand it; all she was eating was salads! She was eating healthy -- or so she thought. 

Once we talked, the light bulb that went off over her head was blinding. It occurred to me that if this bright coed on full academic scholarship was confused about the calorie content of salads, then she wasn't alone! So I wanted to write about this and share with y'all.

Woman eating salad
The bottom line? All salads are not created equal. And sometimes good salads go bad. Let's break it down.

1) Iceberg lettuce is pretty dismal, nutritionally speaking. Look at it: No color = no nutrition. Choose other lettuces if you can. 

2) You will not go wrong with raw veggies -- pile them on! Remember to eat by color (dark-green leaves, bright-orange carrot shreds, radishes, onions, etc.). 
3) Watch the add-ons, like croutons, cheese, bacon bits, hard-boiled egg, bean salad. (Plain beans, yes. Bean salad, however, is usually swimming in fatty dressing.)
4) Speaking of dressing, BINGO -- that's the kicker. Just ONE tablespoon of ranch dressing is 73 calories and 7 grams of fat. One ladleful of dressing equals two to six tablespoons of dressing! Do the math!! YIKES! 
5) Put the bread aside. If you're only having a salad for lunch or dinner, it would seem logical to pile on the bread, then add some butter to that .... Yep, you're right: Just more insult to that injury!

So there you have it: A seemingly innocent salad taking up residence in my poor friend's thighs, and all because she didn't know! Now she does know better -- and so do you. Choose CAREFULLY when eating salads. And remember: If you're going out to a restaurant and order a salad as your entree, you might want to look it up before you order. One time I ordered a Grilled chicken Caesar salad from Chili's or Applebee's or one of those places, thinking it was the best choice, and ended up eating my day's worth of calories in that one meal! 

Here's to the light bulb of enlightenment! May yours go off continuously this holiday season!

For more help putting dinner on your table, check out Leanne's website,, her "Saving Dinner" book series (Ballantine) or her New York Times bestselling book, "Body Clutter" (Fireside).

next: Remembering D.J. Henry
1 comments so far | Post a comment now
three peaks challenge March 6, 2011, 4:15 PM

A really good set of info which I will be certainly coming back to read again. Thanks very much to all those who contribute.

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