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Low-carb salads come in many types, and can be homemade, store-bought or served in a restaurant or eatery. Like other salads, low-carb salads can be small side salads or large salads meant to be a full meal. Low-carb salads are served in many different places, and can be made using a variety of ingredients and flavors. Some salads are already low-carb, while some salad recipes can be modified to lower their carbohydrate content. Knowing common carb-laden salad ingredients can help dieters learn to recognize these types of salads.
Salads that tend to be low-carb include meat salads like steak or grilled chicken salad, traditional Greek salad and avocado salads. Even though these salads do tend to have low-carb ingredients, adding toppings that are heavy on the carbohydrates will raise the carbs significantly. Common foods to avoid when topping low-carb salads include candied nuts, croutons and crackers. Some salads that are by nature high in carbs, like pasta salads, should be avoided completely unless they can be made with low-carb pasta alternatives.
Watch out for dressing that contains sugar, which can boost the carbs in otherwise low-carb salads. If any ingredients in the salads are sweet or breaded and crunchy, they most likely do not belong in low-carb salads. Even salty store-bought dressings, like ranch dressing, can contain a carbohydrate surprise, as many of them contain sugar or corn syrup.
Embarking on a low-carb diet does not mean eliminating your favorite foods, but it does mean a constant and conscious effort to remove sources of carbs from them. If you have a favorite salad, examining its ingredients so it is made without carbohydrates can allow you to enjoy a classic favorite without going outside your dietary restrictions. Some classic salads, like the Cobb salad and Leon's salad, are nearly low-carb on their own and can be easily modified to a low-carb diet. Other common salads require many changes and omissions to make them low-carb, like Asian-style salads with sweet dressing or taco salads, which are served in fried flour tortillas.
Not all salads that are labeled low-carb salads will meet the carbohydrate requirements of a typical low-carb diet. Since low-carb labeling is not generally regulated, manufacturers can put it on anything they want. The best way to get guaranteed low-carb salads when eating out is to check the salad ingredients and ask the chef to leave any restricted ingredients out of the dish.
Salad dressing is so easy to make, there's really no reason to buy the pre-made kind. I even use the premixed packets, oil and water in the shaker. That's a really good dressing, and it isn't sweet, either.
I used to love the really sweet Russian and Catalina dressings, but I can't stand them, now. I'll eat ranch occasionally, but mostly, I do Italian or something similar. That way, I know I'm not getting nearly as many carbs.
It's easy to low-carb salads. Just focus on protein. I use a homemade vinaigrette dressing, or maybe a homemade bleu cheese dressing. If I'm eating out, I request oil and vinegar dressing. I know there's not any sugar in that.
My downfall is crackers. I love the cracker assortments some places offer. I like the whole wheat club crackers. It's a good thing I usually eat something like a Caesar salad that has chicken and cheese on it, or I'd completely blow it with the crackers every time.
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