When you think of healthy foods, salads may be one of the first foods you think of. However, not all salads are healthy. While health-promoting vegetables are the foundation of salads, the extras that are often included in salads can contain too much sugar, sodium, and extra calories.
Traditional Caesar salad contains cheese, croutons, raw eggs, and anchovies. However, there are several things you can do to make a healthier caesar salad.
What Is a Caesar Salad?
Stories abound about the origin of the Caesar salad. Though it sounds Italian and contains Italian ingredients such as anchovies and parmesan cheese, most historians agree that it was invented in the Americas. There are some claims that it was invented in Chicago in 1903, while other people claim it was invented by the Italian-American chef Caesar Cardini in Mexico in 1924.
In the most often-told variation of this tale, Cardini's restaurant was running low on ingredients so he used what he could find in his sparse kitchen — lettuce, parmesan, raw eggs, dry bread, and Worcestershire sauce — to make the iconic salad. Since then, there have been countless variations on the salad.
Caesar Salad Ingredients
Traditional caesar salad contains the following ingredients:
Romaine lettuce. Romaine lettuce is low in calories and sodium. It contains the following nutrients:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin A
- Phenolic compounds
The nutrients in Romaine lettuce can help support vision and blood clotting. Romaine lettuce also contains antioxidants and has anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Croutons. Croutons are traditionally made with white bread. White bread is a refined carbohydrate that has been stripped of the nutrients in whole grains, including vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, fiber, and protein.
Parmesan cheese. Parmesan cheese contains cow's milk, rennet, and salt. As far as cheeses go, parmesan is one of the healthier options. Because it's so dense, it contains a lot of protein. It's also high in calcium and has very little lactose, making it a great choice for people who are lactose intolerant. Finally, parmesan contains probiotics and is low in fat and carbohydrates.
Anchovies. Anchovies are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are a type of unsaturated fat that can reduce inflammation and may benefit heart health. Omega-3 fatty acids may help decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, decrease your risk of stroke and heart disease, and reduce irregular heartbeats.
Raw eggs. Traditional Caesar salad contains raw eggs, which can be contaminated with Salmonella, a foodborne pathogen. You should avoid eating raw or undercooked eggs.
Olive oil. Olive oil is a heart-healthy unsaturated fat, high in monounsaturated fatty acids. Some of the benefits of olive oil may include:
- Helps lower bad cholesterol
- Lower risk of cardiovascular disease
- Lower risk of some cancers
- Lower risk of dementia
Lemon juice. Lemon juice is high in vitamin C and antioxidants.
Garlic. Garlic contains plant compounds that can benefit your health in several key ways, including:
- Boosting your immunity
- Preventing cartilage damage from arthritis
- Can lower blood pressure
- Can kill bacteria that cause foodborne pathogens
How to Make a Healthy Caesar Salad
Many of the ingredients in Caesar salad are already healthy. However, some are unhealthy and should be avoided or swapped for healthier options. You can also add some ingredients that will boost the nutrients for an even healthier option.
Add more vegetables. While Romaine lettuce is healthy, adding more vegetables will make your Caesar salad even healthier. When it comes to vegetables, the more, the better. Add more colorful vegetables such as peppers, red onions, and other greens such as kale and collards to your Caesar salad.
Use whole wheat croutons. By making your croutons with whole wheat bread, you can get all of the flavor and crunch of a traditional Caesar salad and the nutrition and fiber from whole wheat bread.
Omit the raw eggs.Raw eggs can make you very sick, so you shouldn't eat them in your Caesar salad. You can make a delicious dressing by omitting them or boost the nutrition by substituting white beans for the raw eggs in your dressing and processing them in your food processor with the garlic, lemon juice, anchovies, olive oil, parmesan cheese, water, salt, and pepper.
Add beans. Implementing beans into your salad will give you many nutritional benefits. Beans are full of fiber, which can help you feel fuller and improve your gastrointestinal health. Beans also contain folate, which is important for the production of red blood cells and can lend to a healthy pregnancy.
Beans can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Regularly eating beans is associated with maintaining a healthy weight and promotes overall health in children.
Cut down on the oil. Although olive oil is healthier than saturated fats, it's still high in fat and calories. Eating too much fat can cause you to gain weight. Using less olive oil in your Caesar salad will make it lower in calories and better for you.