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A healthier salad

Published:Wednesday | June 20, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Charlyn Fargo, Contributor

When most of us diet, we skip the burger and order a salad. But if you pile on the creamy dressings (high in saturated fat and calories) and add the cheese, bacon and croutons, you may have a meal equal to the burger and fries in fat and calories. So how can you build a healthy salad?

1. Pile on the leafy greens, then the other vegetable and fruit toppings (the shredded carrots, broccoli, and pieces of fruit). That should be the bulk of your salad.

2. Be selective of the other toppings. Do you want a creamy dressing or cheese? And skip the bacon bits and croutons.

3. Add a few nuts for protein, but be careful how many. They can be calorie-dense.

4. Think outside of iceberg (lettuce) to boost the health benefit of a salad. Deeply coloured greens contain vitamins A, C and K, beta-carotene and other carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, calcium, folate and fibre. Try green- and red-leaf lettuce (which has 15 times the vitamin A of iceberg, six times the vitamin K and 20 times the beta-carotene). Romaine, Bibb and Boston lettuce also contain high levels of nutrients.

5. The paler the lettuce (like iceberg), the lower the nutrition. The greener and more colorful, the higher the nutrition.

6. Go for variety in your salad bowl. Try to toss at least three kinds of greens — butterhead (milder), romaine or cabbage (crisp) and flavourful (spinach, arugula or radicchio).

— Information courtesy of Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter

Exercise on the weekend or throughout the week?

Q: I get the Government's weekly recommended amount of physical activity (150 minutes, moderate activity and strength training on two days). Does it matter whether it's all on the weekend or spread throughout the week?

A: First, bravo for getting the recommended amount of physical activity! Physical activity acts in many different ways to improve your health, sense of wellbeing and energy. If you are focused on burning calories for weight management, the average over a week's time is what seems to count. However, you might miss out on some important additional benefits by concentrating physical activity in just two sequential days. For example, high levels of the hormone insulin seem to act like a growth factor promoting cancer development, but physical activity can reduce excessive levels of the insulin. And studies show that physical activity's action on insulin levels lasts from 24 to 72 hours. That's why the American Diabetes Association recommends that you don't go more than two consecutive days without some physical activity. Furthermore, other health benefits of physical activity, including its positive impact on mood, energy and concentration, do not seem able to be stockpiled a week at a time. Perhaps you mean that the weekend is the only time that you 'exercise' — as in sports or yard work.

That's fine, but you can also walk or bicycle instead of driving on an errand, turn on some music and dance, or just take a walk for even 10 to 15 minutes once or twice every day in addition to enjoying larger periods of activity on the weekend. Remember that while 30 minutes a day is the recommended minimum for good health, health benefits are even greater when you work up to an hour a day of moderate activity (or 30 minutes of vigorous activity like running or more intense sports).

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.