I’ve tried every diet.

I bet you have, too.  And every carbohydrate cutting, calorie counting, cholesterol conscious journey culminates in one common crossroads.  One universally common food that is universally controversial.


Who among us hasn’t proudly proclaimed a wellness goal and then promptly procured a salad?  This diet detour in disguise sits at the intersection of the holy trinity of temptation.  

Crispy.  Crunchy.  Creamy.  

You’ve Been Chopped

As I shared in How To Drink Your Way to Better Health , I’m a professionally trained chef. And I was schooled in the mantra, “Fat is flavor. Flavor is fat.”  I was forced to challenge that mantra when I faced a major medical crisis that I detailed in Success With Less .

My hypothesis was that healthy people swap steaks for salads.  And so that’s what I tried.  

What I discovered is eating a salad while everyone else is eating a steak is a recipe for setbacks. Not success.  Especially when I discovered a classic error in my logic.

Atop the list of worst American classic foods?  Salad.  Nibble on that.  The wedge salad can pack in four times the fat of a T-Bone steak, according to WebMD .  Taco Tuesday becomes Tubby Tuesday with the average Taco Salad weighing in at 800 calories or more.  And those white, creamy dressings?  Americans average a half cup per salad, resulting in more fat than a cheeseburger and fries.

Harvest Health & Happiness

When my “healthy salad habit” didn’t produce results, I fell into deeper despair.  Waging a war with my body that neither of us would win.  Have you ever been there?

The challenge is I crave crispy, creamy, crunchy.  And maybe you do, too.  My path to progress accelerated when I changed my consciousness, not my cravings.   The good news is you can have your health and your cravings, too.  

Here are five simple salad swaps I discovered to microstep your way to better health without suffering for salad in the process.

Crispy:  Have you ever played the word association game? I say crispy, you say…bacon.  Or deep fried. Reduce crispy calories without compromising taste with these healthier alternatives: Vegan Coconut Bacon , Popcorn Cauliflower , Salmon Bacon , or Almond Crusted Chicken Fingers .  

Crunchy:  You eat with your eyes first.  And croutons are the crunchy calories that capture our attention immediately.  Keep the crunch while cutting the carbs and calories by swapping croutons for nuts, seeds, fried chickpeas (available pre-packaged) or Keto croutons .  

Creamy: Each week I receive a fresh from the farm box of produce. And when lettuce is plentiful in the spring and fall, I’m tempted to reach for traditional creamy dressing in a bottle. If I’m too busy to make my own dressing, I reach for a bottle of this Organic Habanero Ranch instead.  This Whole 30 and Keto friendly dressing is spicy enough that it’s easy to keep my consumption in check.  My preferred homemade alternative – that’s simple and easy to execute – is this Vegan Avocado Ranch Dressing .  Creamy decadence without calorie overload.

Cheesy:  Almost every Classic American salad is loaded with cheese.  And one ounce of cheddar cheese – approximately two small cubes – contains 115 calories.  I try to choose my calories wisely.  That’s why I save cheese for special occasions.  For daily salads, I swap cheese for Cheezy Garlic Parm .   This plant-based, dairy-free, gluten-free vegan alternative is available in a range of delicious flavors.  And has less than a fourth of the calories of cheese.

Colorful:  Watch out for the iceberg ahead of you, and steer toward healthier alternatives.  The darker the green, the more nutrient dense your salad.  My favorite salad base is easy to prepare and creates a canvas on which to build colorful palettes.  Tear one bunch of kale (stems removed) into chunks. Massage the kale leaves with the juice of one lemon and a sprinkling of kosher salt. Stir in 2 TB extra virgin olive oil.  Let the salad sit uncovered at room temperature on your counter for at least 10 minutes (ideally 3-4 hours).  If you’re easing into leafy greens, try a 50-50 mix of your current salad greens with this nutrient dense alternative.

In the next installment of our series, I’ll share five simple strategies to swap your sweets.