Croutons are a crunchy and delicious topping for your salads, but how healthy are they?
Caesar salads and Croutons
Caesar salads are served with a huge lot of croutons, and you would think that because it’s a salad that’s just fine. However, everything you put on a salad isn’t fair game, and everything should be done in moderation.
Croutons are pretty much fried or baked bread cubes that have first been soaked in butter or some type of oil first. Maybe that’s why they taste so great. The worst part about croutons is the fat-laden oil they are cooked in, and of course bread is a carbohydrate that can quickly pack on the pounds.
By the time you add in your creamy salad dressing, your calorie intake is through the roof. Empty calories are the last thing you need if you’re trying to eat healthy and lose weight, which is the usual goal of someone who’s eating salads.
Don’t let their small size fool you, either. Croutons are high in fat; just a half a cup of croutons is nearly 100 calories and 4 grams of fat (bad fats). Margarine and vegetable oils croutons are fried in are usually hydrogenated, and the fats in them are known to clog the arteries and raise cholesterol levels. If you eat enough of these bite-size toppings and other foods like them, you could develop heart disease or stroke over time.
Healthier toppings for your salad would be fruit, nuts, sunflower seeds, sliced egg whites, chopped lean meats, chopped veggies, and a light dressing like vinaigrette or olive oil.
That being said, croutons on your salad in moderation every once in a while shouldn’t be anything to worry about, especially if your salad takes the place of the vegetable and carbohydrate you usually eat with your meals. As mentioned, loading up your salad with lots of raw vegetables and a light dressing will help to balance the fat and calories in croutons.
Crushing 3 or 4 croutons and sprinkling them on your salad is a great way to still get the flavor you want without so many calories or forego croutons all together and season your salad with the spices that croutons usually contain (such as garlic, pepper, Italian seasoning, onion powder, etc.). For that crunchiness you crave with croutons, nuts and sunflower seeds should suffice.
Some people even make their own croutons using whole wheat bread and herbal spices, being sure not to cook them in butter, but instead using a healthy oil like olive oil or peanut oil. You can also create your own croutons from fat-free Italian or French bread. There are even fat-free croutons available that help to reduce the amount of calories.