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Cutting Down the Calories in Pasta, Chicken and Potato Salads

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Cutting Down the Calories in Pasta, Chicken and Potato Salads

With warmer weather come picnics, outdoor activities and lighter meals. While protein, grain or fruit-based salads provide quick, refreshing and flavorful dishes, they tend to be high in calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar. However, through simple ingredient swaps, these salads can be healthier.

Chicken and Tuna Salad

One cup of chicken or tuna salad can contain up to 400 calories and 6 grams of saturated fat. You can save up to 250 calories and significantly reduce the saturated fat by making these small adjustments:

  • Swap mayonnaise for low-fat mayo, plain yogurt, light sour cream or mashed avocado to lessen the amount of saturated fat.
  • Mix in fruits such as sliced grapes, oranges or apples to add extra vitamins, fiber and sweetness.
  • Dice some celery or bell pepper for crunch, or add a small amount of minced onion or scallions for extra flavor.
  • Toss in your choice of chopped nuts or seeds for a boost of healthy fats, fiber and protein.
  • If including relish, use lower sodium and lower sugar options.

Pasta and Grain Salad

Commercial pasta salads can add up to 350 calories and 3 grams of saturated fat per cup–and that’s just a side dish! Modify the recipes to save up to 180 calories, increase fiber and cut the amount of saturated fat in half.

  • Opt for whole grain pasta, or even better, use the actual whole grain. Cooked wheat berries, barley and quinoa offer more fiber, protein and vitamins than pasta.
  • Similarly to tuna and chicken salads, feel free to add any vegetables you like. For a fresh, crunchy texture, mix with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and green onions.
  • Instead of using store-bought dressings that are typically loaded in fat and sodium, make a homemade vinaigrette with your choice of vinegar and a small amount of olive oil.
  • Get creative with other fat-free seasonings such as Dijon mustard and fresh herbs.
  • Try pungent cheeses, such as reduced-fat feta, to infuse lots of flavor by using just a small amount.

Potato Salad

The typical cup of potato salad may contain up to 350 calories, 3.5 grams of saturated fat and 28 grams of carbohydrates. The following tips will help you save about 220 calories, 3 grams of saturated fat and 12 grams of carbohydrates.

  • Replace the potatoes with mashed cauliflower to reduce calories and carbohydrates.
  • Replace boiled eggs with egg whites to reduce the amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • For a creamy and light option, substitute real mayonnaise with low-fat mayo, light sour cream or nonfat plain Greek yogurt.

Fruit Salad

  • Combine a variety of colorful fruits to create a blend of tastes and textures.
  • Swap regular gelatin or pudding with sugar-free gelatin or fat-free vanilla yogurt. The yogurt provides the same creaminess and a sweet tang to your dish, and also adds protein.
  • Use mint, basil or other herbs to bring an aromatic twist to the salad.
  • Choose fruits with a high juice content such as pineapples or oranges. These will supply liquid for the “dressing,” as well as natural sweetness so you don’t have to add extra sugar or honey.
  • Drizzle juice from freshly squeezed lemons, limes or oranges to brighten the natural fruit flavors and add a burst of vitamin C.

Don’t Forget!

The salad is only one component of the meal. Keep your plate balanced with high fiber carbs such as whole grain bread or crackers, lean protein options such as turkey or chicken breast, and serve with a bed of leafy greens or raw vegetables to complete the menu.

For more information about food substitutions, meal planning and other dietary concerns, please contact Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services at 972.560.2655.


Article provided by Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.