Is your salad more fattening than a hamburger?

You think you’re being healthy by ordering a salad, but dowse it in creamy dressing, some cheeses, and fatty meats and it could be an energy overload.

While leafy green vegetables and fresh produce are generally good for you some salad recipes sneak in energy-rich ingredients which could be blowing out your daily energy intake (counted in kilojoules).

Bupa accredited practising dietitian Christine Wong explains how we can keep the kilojoule creep from sabotaging our salads.

The kilojoule creep

Did you know some salads may actually be higher in kilojoules than a cheese burger, small chips of or a piece of pizza?

salad vs hamburger infographic

“At the end of the day a lot of these take away salads want to appeal to the taste buds of people out there so they will add all these things that will make the dish tastier, but they’re really high in kilojoules,” says Wong.

Convert calories to kilojoules and back

Use our calorie converter to convert the energy in what you’re eating from kilojoules to calories, and vice versa.

Enter the value in calories to calculate in kilojoules, or enter a value in kilojoules to convert to calories.

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Learn more about the calorie converter

One ‘uppercase C’ Calorie is actually a kilocalorie (1000 ‘lower case c’ calories) and equals 4 kilojoules (rounded to the nearest whole number).

This tool has been reviewed by Bupa health professionals and is based on reputable sources of scientific evidence. It is not diagnostic and should not be relied on as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice. Consult your doctor if you have questions.

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Up next: How to tell the difference between calories (cal) and kilojoules (kJ)

Watch out for…?

Wong says the first red flag is creamy dressings, which are usually not only high in kilojoules but may also be full of added sugar, salt and saturated fat.

“Go for something that has a clear dressing or something that has a small amount of olive oil,” says Wong. “Or if the salad’s not pre-made ask for the dressing on the side.”

Another one to watch out for is fatty meats – it’s not just your cholesterol level you need to watch out for!

“If it’s crumbed meat or deep fried meat, it’s definitely going to increase the kilojoules in the salads,” she says.

Cheese can be a delicious and healthy addition to a salad but if there is too much it can also add a lot of extra kilojoules, salt and saturated fat.

 “Even a salad with croutons or crunchy noodles may not look like a lot but it can add a lot of extra energy,” says Wong.

woman making a salad

Build your own healthier salad

Wong says half of the plate should be made up of non-starchy vegetables eg. Lettuce, tomato, cucumber, snow peas, spinach or carrot.

A quarter should be a lean protein source like skinless chicken breast, lean beef, tuna, eggs or legumes.

The rest should be low to medium GI carbohydrates like potato, quinoa, brown rice or couscous.

High kilojoule, high nutrient ingredients – watch your portions

Wong says energy rich foods like nuts, avocado and olive oil contain healthy fats.

She says while they are great additions to a salad, it’s important not to go overboard.

“Just a small handful of nuts, a drizzle of olive oil and a quarter to half an avocado,” Wong says.

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