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There are two things that festivals bring along: a lot of calories and over eating. All the indulgences in sweets and mithais can make you feel lethargic and sluggish. There is one dish that can solve all the eating problems. Salads. They are a great way to add vegetables and greens to our diets without adding a lot of calories. Well, there are a few salads that can be calorie heavy because of all the dressings of cream and mayonnaise. You could avoid those. Dressings made with healthy fats like olive oil are fine but if you need to watch your waistline, you may need to watch the calorie count. Fruits and salads can make a mini-meal with the inclusion of all food groups. A well-prepared and well-thought out salad meal can be a substitute to a meal but only once a day. There are certain guidelines that can help you make a wonderful salad with carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and trace elements – a one bowl balanced meal.

Tips for a good salad

Choose a fresh base -- Green leafy vegetables like lettuce, radish leaves, cabbage, spinach should be bought fresh. Choose leaves that are crisp. This sort of base ensures fibre, minerals, iron, Vitamin A in plenty.

Add a body -- Pasta, boiled rice, burghul, cut vegetables, paneer and tofu cubes, fruits, raisins, nuts, legumes, grains, pulses, sprouts will give you basic carbohydrates, some protein, fat-soluble vitamins and essential amino acids.

Be choosy about dressing -- Forget the cream and mayonnaise. Vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, hung yogurt, fruit juice, wine are excellent choices. Besides flavour, dressings add moisture, taste and seasoning to the salad making it more palatable. They also enhance the nutritive value adding vitamins and antioxidants.

Go for a garnish -- Beautify the whole bowl for maximum eye appeal. Maybe a sprig of coriander, some mint leaves, shredded lettuce or chopped olives, slivered nuts or some sesame seeds will be sufficient. 

Tips for healthier salads

• If possible go for organically grown vegetables and fruits.

• Wash all fruits and vegetables properly.

• If possible, consume most of them with skin as maximum nutrients are found below the skin.

• Design your salad according to your vocation, sex, height, age, weight.

• Once your salad is done, do not freeze it. Refrigerator temperature is fine.

• Also, never season or dress the salad in advance. The crispiness is lost. Always dress it just before serving.

• If you want eggs in your salad, remove the yolks, or at least half of them.

• Include avocado from time to time. Although it is relatively high in fat (though mostly monounsaturated fat), it’s also packed with nutrients such as magnesium, potassium and vitamin E.

• Use nuts occasionally and sparingly. Almonds and walnuts contain heart-healthy fats and add a pleasing crunch and texture to salads

• Make your own croutons using day-old bread sprinkled with dried herbs and baked on a baking sheet greased with olive oil. 

Salads to avoid

When we go out to eat, those who are on a health binge would rather order a salad. But remember here that a green salad with no dressing is the best choice. Add a sprinkling of salt and lemon juice on the table and consume immediately. Special chef-style salads are high in saturated fat, thanks to all that cream and cheese. Also avoid the Caesar’s salad because it has an egg-based dressing, fried croutons and cheese: all high in both fat and cholesterol.

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