10 Worst Salad Toppings & 10 Healthy Alternatives To Have Instead

10 Worst Salad Toppings & 10 Healthy Alternatives To Have Instead

It’s long been thought that the only way to enjoy a salad is to slather it with unhealthy toppings like bacon, cheese, or creamy dressings. But there are lots of ways to give your greens a little oomph, all while keeping your health in check. Here are 10 of the worst salad toppings you should consider swapping out for 10 of the healthiest alternatives. 

1. Bacon Bits

Bacon bits are a classic addition to equally classic salads, but those interested in weight management should skip them. They’re highly processed and typically come loaded with fat and sodium—making them an unhealthy choice any day of the week.

Caesar Salad, Up Close, Pulled Pork In BackgroundMichael J. Bennett on Wikimedia Commons

2. Croutons

The next time you’re going for a healthy salad, resist the call of the crouton. Though they taste great and offer a pleasing crunch, croutons are rich in refined carbs, fat, and sodium. Eat too many of them and you’re looking at an increased risk of high blood pressure or weight gain. 

Vita-Marija-Murenaite-Gnfzvrzodly-UnsplashPhoto by Vita Marija Murenaite on Unsplash

3. Sugary Dressings

Unfortunately, your favorite salad dressing is probably loaded with sugar, so opt for something healthier. Italian, French, Thousand Island, and honey mustard are all major contributors to more sugar, as well as low-fat dressings. 

Mike-Kenneally-D825Jrxvun8-UnsplashPhoto by Mike Kenneally on Unsplash

4. Cheese

Cheese isn’t necessarily the worst thing for a salad, but the amount you add can be. If you can’t live without it, make sure you add real cheese and don’t go overboard with it. You can also swap out your go-tos for variations like feta or goat cheese instead.

Farhad-Ibrahimzade-Unufijo12Ts-UnsplashPhoto by Farhad Ibrahimzade on Unsplash


5. Candied Nuts

Adding nuts to a salad seems healthy, however, the “candied” part is what hurts your argument. If you’re going for an extra crunch, don’t reach for anything candied as they’re coated in sugar and throw off your caloric intake—not to mention undermine the health benefits of your salad!

Deryn-Macey-Dfwhzhyali8-UnsplashPhoto by Deryn Macey on Unsplash

6. Crunchy Food Bits

Add-ons like crunchy noodles or tortilla chip pieces negate the benefits of an otherwise healthy meal. There’s nothing wrong with wanting crunch in your salad, but breaded or crunchy bits aren’t the healthiest way to get it.

Mahdi-Dastmard-2Zlz8Xgij1O-UnsplashPhoto by Mahdi Dastmard on Unsplash

7. Dried Fruit

Don’t fall victim to the belief that dried fruit and fresh fruit are the same. Dried fruit doesn’t have the water, but does have all the sugar and calories, meaning it isn’t the healthy salad topping you think it is. 

Fati-Mohebbi-5Xvuzjxduue-UnsplashPhoto by Fati Mohebbi on Unsplash

8. Corn

Corn isn’t a bad topping if you use it in moderation. A bit in your salad is a great way to get additional protein and fiber—it’s only when you add too much that you welcome a ton of carbs.

I-E-Krgfxjwio2Y-UnsplashPhoto by I E on Unsplash

9. Creamy Dressings

We know you (probably) have a creamy dressing in your fridge! Ranch, blue cheese, and Caesar are among the fan favorites that also come loaded with saturated fat and calories. Keep salads healthy by avoiding these options in the future. 

Chris-Tweten-Fk-Uknip0Pe-UnsplashPhoto by Chris Tweten on Unsplash

10. Fried Foods

Fried foods aren’t great for us in general and plopping them onto a bed of greens doesn’t change that. Packed with calories and added fat, fried foods should be left off your salad—and everyday menu.

Leo-Roza-P Z Xlmguek-UnsplashPhoto by Léo Roza on Unsplash

So, how are you supposed to dress a salad and keep all the flavor? We’ve got a few options!


1. Lean meats

There are tons of lean meats perfect for topping a salad with. Grilled chicken and tofu are solid lean protein options that come packed with flavor and less fat than other alternatives. Toss some in to make a salad more filling and preserve all the good stuff.

Farhad-Ibrahimzade-Lj49Dfldch8-UnsplashPhoto by Farhad Ibrahimzade on Unsplash

2. More Veggies

Leafy greens just lay the foundation for salad—there are lots of other vegetables you can add to get the most out of your meal. Tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and carrots are all rich in vitamins and fiber that help with weight management and add a healthier crunch. 

Dmitry-Dreyer-K4Ert Iyazw-UnsplashPhoto by Dmitry Dreyer on Unsplash

3. Nuts

Speaking of healthy crunch, nuts are another terrific source! They’re satisfying additions to any salad and chock-full of benefits like fiber, protein, healthy fats, and vitamins.

Juan-Jose-Valencia-Antia-Ttrjmhrkoey-UnsplashPhoto by Juan José Valencia Antía on Unsplash

4. Balsamic Vinegar

You don’t need to give up every classic salad drizzle to stay healthy. Balsamic vinegar packs a flavorful punch and brings plenty of antioxidants to the table, all without a bunch of fat or calories. 

Christine-Isakzhanova-0Ign3Tbe4Rm-UnsplashPhoto by Christine Isakzhanova on Unsplash

5. Berries

Fresh berries naturally sweeten a salad and come loaded with vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants that contribute to overall health. Opt for a berry salad on its own or throw some strawberry slices in alongside your greens!

Louis-Hansel-Mlpd-Azzymg-UnsplashPhoto by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

6. Avocado

Even outside of salads, try to work avocado into your diet. It’s rich in fiber, vitamins, and healthy fats that all contribute to lower cholesterol and reduced inflammation. Adding avocado slices to your salad is an easy way to get the best of both foods.

Tania-Melnyczuk-Ano6Xwuo9So-UnsplashPhoto by Tania Melnyczuk on Unsplash


7. Quinoa

Quinoa is already one of life’s healthiest options and put into a salad only amplifies your diet. It’s packed with nutrients and healthy fats that regulate blood sugar and promote overall health, not to mention it’s high in fiber.

Shashi-Chaturvedula-Oyvz-Stypr4-UnsplashPhoto by Shashi Chaturvedula on Unsplash

8. Fresh Herbs

We owe a lot to fresh herbs. They bring a welcome flavor boost to dishes and drinks alike and don’t come with a hefty caloric price tag either. Basil, mint, or cilantro work wonders in a salad and for your overall health by reducing inflammation and improving digestion (among other things).

Alexander-Schimmeck-8M-Gbvd87N8-UnsplashPhoto by Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash

9. Hard-Boiled Eggs

A staple ingredient in the Cobb salad, hard-boiled eggs are never a bad option. A good source of protein and vitamin D, eggs also help you retain the nutrients in a salad!   

Logan-Jeffrey-Cjarbdnrdfs-UnsplashPhoto by logan jeffrey on Unsplash

10. Legumes

If you’re looking to add a little fiber to your salad, turn to legumes like chickpeas or lentils. They’ll keep you fuller for longer and are excellent sources of fiber, protein, and B vitamins. 

Imad-786-Lczfubeouta-UnsplashPhoto by Imad 786 on Unsplash