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