Huffpost Healthy Living

How Many Calories Are Actually In Your Salad

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SALAD CALOR
Damon Dahlen/HuffPost

If you're anything like us, a salad at lunch or dinner can seem like a low-maintenance shortcut to a healthy diet. We've been known to pile on the toppings too, thinking: "Well, it's a bowl of greens, what could go wrong?"

But beyond healthy greens and fresh vegetables, those other small toppings can really add up. So we decided to illustrate just what 50-, 100- or 200-calorie portions of favorite salad toppings look like. Some of the results were heartening: fiber-rich, nutritious chickpeas are just 100 calories for half a cup. But other foods were surprisingly calorific -- take, for example, sun-dried tomatoes: just eight of the halves amount to 100 calories.

It's important to note that not all calories are the same: Foods that are rich in fiber, protein, vitamins and other nutrients are far more valuable than palatable, but nutritionally devoid items. If given the option between 100 calories of grilled chicken and 100 calories of crispy wontons, any health-minded person will choose the former. But it's a reminder that a "healthy" meal is just as susceptible to portion control problems and overloaded add-ons.

That skill is especially important, as maintaining a healthy weight and diet often means keeping track of calories. The USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans offers calorie amount recommendations based on age, gender and physical activity level that can help you stay on track.

Can you eyeball a reasonable portion at the salad bar? Do these calorie amounts surprise you? And how do you build a healthy salad. Tell us in the comments.

All photos by Damon Dahlen for AOL/The Huffington Post

  • Grilled Chicken Breast
    Perdue Grilled Chicken Breast, Plain
    This lean protein provides a lot of nutrients and a lot of volume per calorie, making it a great salad topper.
    50 cals -- 1/2 cup
    100 cals -- 1 cup
    200 cals -- 2 cup
  • Hard-Boiled Eggs
    Eggland's Best Eggs
    Hard-boiled eggs are common in everything from Chef's Salad to Niçoise. And while egg slices are a great vegetarian protein source, it's easy to lose track of how many whole eggs you're eating.
    50 cals -- .8 eggs
    100 cals -- 1.67 eggs
    200 cals -- 3.5 eggs
  • Kalamata Olives
    Peloponnese Pitted Kalamata Olives
    Heart healthy olives are a great salad choice, but the calories add up quickly.
    50 cals -- 6 olives
    100 cals -- 12 olives
    200 cals -- 24 olives
  • Avocado
    Organic Avocado
    Avocados are heart-healthy dynamos -- delivering polyunsaturated fats and even, according to some research, helping to reduce the inflammation that contributes to heart disease risk. But if you're adding some avocado in your chopped salad, chances are you're getting more calories than you bargained for.
    50 cals -- 1/6 of avocado
    100 cals -- 1/3 avocado
    200 cals -- 2/3 avocado
  • Sun-Dried Tomatoes
    Via Roma Sun-Dried Tomato Halves
    What could be bad about tomatoes? In this concentrated form, the small, dried halves are surprisingly calorific.
    50 cals -- 4 pieces
    100 cals -- 8 pieces
    200 cals -- 16 pieces
  • Croutons
    Pepperidge Farm Classic Caesar Croutons
    Is there a more classic salad ingredient than a crouton? Unfortunately, the iconic topper is high in calories.
    50 cals -- 10 pieces
    100 cals -- 20 pieces
    200 cals -- 40 pieces
  • Chickpeas
    Progresso Chickpeas
    Chickpeas are another high volume, low cal choice, with plenty of fiber and protein.
    50 cals -- 1/4 cup
    100 cals -- 1/2 cup
    200 cals -- 1 cup
  • Crumbled Blue Cheese
    Blue cheese adds a lot of flavor without a lot of volume, and that means even a small amount will permeate your salad's profile.
    50 cals -- 1/8 cup
    100 cals -- 1/4 cup
    200 cals -- 1/2 cup
  • Cubed Cheddar Cheese
    Kraft Cheddar Cheese, Cubed
    If you're well-behaved enough to have a salad, you might as well cheer yourself up with some cheese, right? Given how little cheese is in each portion, that's a dangerous game to start.
    50 calories -- .5 oz or about 4 small cubes
    100 calories -- 1 oz or about 8 cubes
    200 calories -- 2 oz or about 16 cubes
  • Parmesan Cheese
    Stella Shredded Parmesan Cheese
    Shredded parmesan is another way to up the flavor and lower the volume.
    50 cals -- 1/8 cup
    100 cals -- 1/4 cup
    200 cals -- 1/2 cup
  • Mandarin Slices
    Dole Mandarin Slices In Light Syrup
    Canned orange slices are popular at salad bars and with just 50 calories in a quarter cup, they contribute to an overall healthful calorie load. That said, watch out for the "light syrup" -- a source of added sugar.
    50 cals -- 1/4 cup
    100 cals -- 1/2 cup
    200 cals -- 1 cup
  • Dried Cranberries
    Ocean Spray Original Craisins
    Sweet, tart dried cranberries -- sounds natural, but these salad toppers are often full of added sugar.
    50 cals -- 1/8 cups
    100 cals -- 1/4 cups
    200 cals -- 1/2 cups
  • Almonds
    Diamond Sliced Almonds
    Sliced almonds are an easy way to add some protein and heart-healthy fats to your salad, but less than three tablespoons already add up to 100 calories.
    50 cals -- 1.25 Tbsp
    100 cals -- 2.5 Tbsp
    200 cals -- 5 Tbsp
  • Apple Chips
    Seneca Crispy Apple Chips Granny Smith
    Fresh apples are healthy, but these crispy apple chips pack a caloric punch, thanks to added sugar and oil.
    50 cals -- 4 slices
    100 cals -- 8 slices
    200 cals -- 16 slices
  • Wonton Strips
    Fresh Gourmet Garlic Ginger Wonton Strips
    These crispy little strips can add up quickly.
    50 calories -- 3 Tbsp
    100 calories -- 6 Tbsp
    200 calories -- 12 Tbsp
  • Tortilla Strips
    Fresh Gourmet Tortilla Strips Lightly Salted
    Much like the wonton strips, these crispy carbs can seem harmless. But even a handful can top 100 calories.
    50 cals -- 3 Tbsp
    100 cals -- 6 Tbsp
    200 cals -- 12 Tbsp
  • Chopped Walnuts
    Heart-healthy walnuts are a great salad topper, thanks to their nutrient density -- but they can come with quite a few calories, as well.
    50 cals -- 1 Tbsp
    100 cals -- 2 Tbsp
    200 cals -- 1/4 cup
  • Hormel Bacon Bits
    No one is under the impression that these little bits are healthful -- they're full of sodium and saturated fat -- though they are not particularly calorific. Two tablespoons is just 50 calories.
    50 cals -- 2 Tbsp
    100 cals -- 4 Tbsp
    200 cals -- 8 Tbsp
  • Italian Dressing
    Kraft Italian Dressing
    Italian dressing can make even the bitterest green palatable to a veg-o-phobe. But the dressing comes full of added sugars, salts and quite a few calories.
    50 cals -- 2 Tbsp
    100 cals -- 4 Tbsp
    200 cals -- 8 Tbsp
  • Hidden Valley Original Ranch Dressing
    The typical salad serving size is two tablespoons, but many salads are dressed with far more. And it's hard to imagine how that translates into calories.
    50 calories -- 1.5 Tbsp
    100 calories -- 3 Tbsp
    200 calories -- 6 Tbsp

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