Eating a salad always seems like the healthy choice until you pile on the caloric toppings, including croutons and dressing. You can easily replace dressing with lemon juice, a bit of olive oil or balsamic vinegar, but what about nixing those little crunchy cubes we love so much? Forget them, because a) we’re over croutons and b) you can do better with one of these 7 healthier and tastier alternatives.
This is a low calorie choice that can add both flavor and texture to your salad. You can go with classic butter or opt for kettle corn if you want some sweetness. Broken up popcorn chips would also be a delicious and crunchy alternative to croutons.
2. Apple chips
For sweetness, I add dried cranberries to practically every salad I eat, but I’ve recently taken to adding apple chips instead. You can buy them at the store or even make your own in the oven. They provide sweetness, but are also crispy, healthful and give your salad a unique flavor twist.
3. Roasted almonds
Whether you choose simply salted or one of the wilder flavors out there, like wasabi or honey mustard, almonds are the perfect protein-packed crouton replacement. While slivered almonds are a more conventional topping, whole almonds add extra crunch and nutty flavor.
I have enjoyed my fair share of DUC salads topped with Goldfish, but I have to attribute this one to memories of ordering the kid’s caesar salad at California Pizza Kitchen, which came topped with cheddar Goldfish. Genius. Try experimenting with the other flavors, like pretzel or plain, depending on the kind of salad you’re making. If you’re feeling like a risk-taker, you could even try the Flavor-Blasted variations. While Goldfish aren’t necessarily healthy, 2/3 cup of cheddar-flavored crackers is 230 calories, and realistically, you’ll only need 1/4 cup max to generously top your salad.
5. Zucchini chips
These crispy veggie chips have become my new favorite snack, and I just recently tried putting them on a salad. The verdict? Nailed it. Whether you buy them packaged or make your own, you’re getting the nutritional benefits of a vegetable with the crunch of a crouton.
6. Pretzel thins
Snack Factory’s Pretzel Crisps are the ideal topping to kick your salad up a notch. From garlic parmesan to sesame, endless flavor options leave the playing field wide open. You can even mix multiple flavors if you’re feeling bold. Break the pretzels up before adding them to your salad so they can actually fit on your fork.
7. Roasted chickpeas
Available in a wide variety of brands and seasonings, crunchy roasted chickpeas are a very worthy salad topper. From cracked pepper to cinnamon and everything in between, you’ll forget croutons ever existed. This is once again another topping that you can make at home. That way, you can create your own unique flavor that works perfectly with your favorite salad concoction.