If you want to be healthy, eat a salad ... right? Well, according to some experts, things aren't so simple. Although salads oftentimes contain nutrient-dense veggies that are good for your health, they can also contain a whole lot of other ingredients, including a few that aren't so great. As registered dietician, Keri Glassman, revealed on CBS's "The Early Morning Show," some salads are chock full of empty calories. Some even contain high portions of saturated fats, sodium, and sugar — three components that can cause chronic health problems when eaten in excessive amounts, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
With this in mind, we decided to investigate the salad kits available at Trader Joe's to find out which ones are healthy and which ones could leave you feeling lousy. Using the criteria outlined by the AHA and Harvard University, we've pinpointed the salads that contain high quantities of the three unhealthy components. We've also found out which salad options actually contain the elements that the AHA recommends for a heart-healthy life, such as proteins and vitamins. As salad connoisseurs ourselves, we were very invested in the results, and we were pleasantly surprised to see that a few of our favorites ranked way better than expected!
BBQ & Black And Pepper Toscano Chopped Salad
Trader Joe's BBQ & Black Pepper Toscano Chopped Salad Kit may sound delicious, but it's not particularly healthy — unfortunately! Sure, this salad tastes great. Who doesn't like a nice thick BBQ-flavored dressing? That same dressing, though, is the very ingredient that makes this a little bit worse for you than the next product down the list (spoiler alert!), the Caesar salad.
Per the Trader Joe's nutrition facts, the Toscano Chopped Salad Kit contains 3 grams of saturated fats in each serving, giving about 27 calories from fats. According to the AHA, only 6% of your daily calories should come from saturated fats (that means about 120-150 calories in total), otherwise you could risk developing heart disease down the line. The salad kit also contains 200 milligrams of sodium, another ingredient that may lead to eventual heart problems in excessive quantities.
The biggest problem with the Toscano chopped salad kit, though, is the fact that the dressing is chock full of sugar. A single serving of salad and dressing contains a whopping 8 grams of sugar, and the AHA recommends that you consume no more than approximately 30 grams of sugar per day. This means that one portion of salad represents almost 33% of your daily limit, and if you go back for seconds, that number could be even higher. To avoid unhealthy ingredients, like sodium, saturated fats, and sugar, you might want to choose a healthier salad off this list.
Organic Caesar Salad Kit
Before launching this investigation, we were convinced that Trader Joe's Organic Caesar Salad Kit would be a healthy option. For one thing, the product is organic, which can often be a good sign. For another, we just hoped it would be good for us — we love a good Caesar salad full of gooey dressing with a thick coat of parm. The minute that we cross-checked the product's nutrition facts with healthy eating guidelines, though, we were pretty disappointed.
According to the AHA, excessive consumption of sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which the organization calls "the silent killer." Trader Joe's nutrition facts reveal that one serving of their Caesar salad contains 260 milligrams of sodium — over 10% of the recommended daily intake, and more than twice as much as the healthiest salad on the menu. To make matters worse, the product also contains 3 grams of saturated fats, an element that can increase your chances of developing heart disease, per the AHA.
The good news is that the Caesar salad kit is not completely bad for you. It does contain minimal sugar — just 1 gram with 0 grams added! — which fits nicely with the AHA's warning that excessive sugar consumption can lead to long-term chronic diseases. It also offers 4 grams of protein, an ingredient that the organization touts as part of a healthy diet. Despite this, the Caesar salad kit is, regrettably, not the healthiest choice on the market.
Southwestern Chopped Salad
Trader Joe's Southwestern Chopped Salad might be a healthier choice than the Caesar salad, but it's certainly no health fest. On a lot of levels, it actually ties with the Caesar salad in terms of heart health, containing a whole 3 grams of saturated fats. As mentioned above, it's a wise choice to limit this particular component as much as possible.
In spite of this the Southwestern chopped salad is marginally better for you, thanks to its slightly lower sodium content. In contrast to the 260 mg of sodium available in the Caesar salad, the Southwestern salad only contains 220 milligrams. This means that if you are trying to limit your consumption of this ingredient to within the recommendations, you'd be way better off reaching for this salad than the previous one.
In addition to a slightly better sodium content, the Southwestern salad contains 5 grams of protein per serving, rather than just 4. The AHA encourages people to eat a variety of different types of protein in order to avoid the risk of high blood pressure, so it definitely makes this particular product a better choice. The Southwestern salad does also have slightly more sugar than the Caesar, with 3 grams instead of just 1, and makes no mention of how much of this is added. Still, it offers enough other benefits to compensate for this small difference.
Avocado Ranch Salad Kit
These days, avocado everything is in style — and why shouldn't it be? We love avocado toast and avocado smoothies as much as the next person! That being said, Trader Joe's Avocado Ranch Salad Kit is not as healthy as, say, a serving of mashed avocado on rye. The reason? The salad dressing contains plenty of saturated fats.
According to the Trader Joe's website, the avocado ranch salad kit contains 2.5 grams of saturated fats per serving. This means that if you add a second scoop of salad to your plate, you could easily consume 5 grams of saturated fats in one sitting — more than ⅓ of the AHA's limit on what you should consume in a day. It is worth noting that this number is still lower than what we see in the Southwestern salad kit. taking a second helping of the Southwestern salad would put you at 6 grams of saturated fat. While this might not sound like much more than what we see in the avocado salad, the extra gram would actually push you to almost half your daily limit for saturated fats, just from eating salad!
In terms of sodium and sugar, the avocado ranch salad boasts similar numbers to other salads on the lower end of the spectrum. A portion of the salad represents 10% of your daily sodium, while it is quite low in sugar at just 3 grams with none added. Overall, this one could definitely be healthier.
Organic Mediterranean Style Salad
This is one of the first salads on our list that actually starts to offer a higher level of nutrition. In contrast to some of the previously mentioned items, Trader Joe's Organic Mediterranean Style Salad is relatively low in saturated fats. With only 1.5 grams per serving, this salad kit is the sort of thing that you can dig into without having to worry about exceeding your daily limit.
While the sodium content of this salad is the highest so far, at 290 milligrams per serving, the sugar content is fairly low at just 3 grams per serving — although 2 grams of this sugar are added. And, even though the protein content is on the lower end at just 2 grams, it's much easier to add new, healthy ingredients to your salad than taking the unhealthy ones out. With this in mind, you can always bolster this yourself by adding your own to the kit. Our recommendations? A scoop of lentils or even some tofu, both of which contain a lot of protein and zero saturated fats.
Lemony Arugula Basil Salad
If you don't have enough time to prepare a special protein for your salad, fear not! Trader Joe's Lemony Arugula Basil Salad contains 4 grams per serving, and it's delicious. With arugula, carrots, and plenty of parmesan, this meal combines fresh veggies with rich cheese to create a deeply flavorful dish. On top of that, this kit contains 230 milligrams of sodium per portion, meaning that you can go back for seconds without getting close to your daily limit.
Of course, the salad is not 100% healthy. The sugars are slightly higher than the ones in the Organic Mediterranean Style Salad, with 4 grams instead of just 3 (with 1 gram added), and the saturated fats are also slightly elevated, at 2 grams per serving rather than 1.5. Although these factors may suggest the lemony basil salad is less healthy than the Mediterranean one, these differences are quite small once you consider that the lemony salad has something that the previous one barely contains — calcium.
According to Harvard University, calcium is not just important for the development of strong bones. The mineral also helps keep your heart strong by ensuring that it's able to beat at an appropriate rhythm. Just one serving of the lemony arugula salad contains 140 milligrams of calcium, compared to just 50 in the Mediterranean salad.
Dill-Icious Chopped Salad
When it comes to all things pickled, we're definitely fans. Whether you are talking about pickled carrots, beets, or a handful of cornichons, we're totally here for it. Because of this, we were stoked to see just how healthy the Trader Joe's Dill-icious Chopped Salad truly is. Stuffed with cabbages, radishes, and dill-flavored potato chips (yum!), this salad kit has all the refreshing tastes that go well with a hamburger or a plate of barbecue. The best part? It follows the health guidelines pretty closely.
With 240 milligrams of sodium and just a single gram of saturated fats, the dill salad kit is the sort of thing you can eat time and time again without worrying about eating more than your daily limit. What's more, it's pretty low in sugars, with just 3 grams per serving and zero added. The only downside is that the salad is relatively low in protein, with just 2 grams per portion. That being said, you can always add a scoop of grilled chicken or even some tofu to the mix to add a solid source of protein that's also low in saturated fats.
Veggies & Greens Salad Kit
There's nothing like a nice side salad to complement your dinner, and if you're looking for something healthy, the Trader Joe's Veggies & Greens Salad Kit is a great choice. Compared to the other options, it's extremely low in saturated fat and sodium, with just 1 g and 200 milligrams per serving, respectively. The kit even has a solid portion of protein, boasting 3 grams per portion, which can be bolstered by the addition of extra ingredients.
The best part is that the salad tastes really good. Thanks to the addition of premium ingredients like pistachios and dried pears, it has a rich yet sweet flavor. The dressing, which contains both honey and sesame, ties together these sweet and nutty flavors perfectly. The use of ginger in the dressing also provides an extra level of complexity to the recipe, allowing it to pair well with anything from a tofu stir-fry to a nice glass of wine.
Brussels Sprouts Sauté Kit
Not all salads are cold. If you're on the hunt for a nice warm salad dish to enjoy this winter season, look no further than the Trader Joe's Brussels Sprouts Sauté Kit. Complete with hazelnuts, parmesan cheese, and a nice lemony dressing, this is the ideal thing to pair with a nice roast chicken or a bowl of stew. What's more, the Brussels sprouts kit is, by far, the healthiest option available.
In comparison to the other salads, most of which contain quite a bit of sodium, the Brussels sprouts come with just 105 mg per serving — about half as much as the competition. This salad is also low in saturated fats, with 1.5 grams per serving. Not only does this follow the guidelines for healthy eating, but it also keeps the components well within your limit for daily consumption. On top of that, this salad is actually pretty high in protein, with a solid 5 grams per serving, and sugars are also relatively low, at just 3 grams (with 1 gram added). In other words, this is the perfect treat for anyone who's looking to maintain their heart health and improve their diet.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.