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4 rules for building a slimming salad

Simple tips to help you make or order a healthier salad.
/ Source: TODAY

If you want to be virtuous, you order a salad, right? Don’t go patting yourself on the back just yet! A classic Cobb with chopped bacon, egg, blue cheese, avocado and creamy dressing clocks in at over 1,000 calories. Likewise, a standard restaurant's chef salad is typically loaded with Swiss cheese, roast beef, eggs and dressing — and will set you back about the same. Not so ideal after all.

Instead, slim down your greens using these four simple guidelines.

Rule #1: Load on the veggies.

The more, the merrier… And anything goes. Stick with raw or cooked vegetables and steer clear of ones that are fried or swimming in oily marinades.

Drop 10 today veggie list

Rule #2: Add ample protein.

Think grilled chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, egg whites and tofu. And don’t forget about beans, like black beans and chickpeas, which are oozing with health benefits.

Rule #3: Choose one or two extras.

Here’s where you can fancy up your salad with a 1- to 2-tablespoon sprinkle of nuts, seeds, avocado, cheese (even croutons or granola!). But try to minimize portions to keep calories in check — a little bit of these goodies goes a long way.

Rule #4: Go easy on dressing.

Restaurant and bottled dressings tend to be quite calorrific! A generous pour can quickly add up to more than 300 calories, and that’s before you consider the salad underneath. So again, stick with 1 to 2 tablespoons to keep salads light.

Or, make these simple-to-prepare DIY dressings that are low in calories (and sodium), but jam-packed with flavor.

Joy's Balsamic Vinaigrette: This delicious vinaigrette, at only 28 calories per tablespoon, is easy to throw together and uses only a few staple ingredients you probably already have on hand. Get the recipe!

Joy's Buttermilk Ranch Dressing: This zesty recipe gives calorie-laden ranch a run for its money. It’s just as creamy and flavorful as the real thing. Not to mention, this version is a measly 11 calories per tablespoon. Your greens will be sure to make the best-dressed list. Get the recipe.

Joy's Caesar Dressing: Last but certainly not least, try this scrumptious Caesar Dressing for just 20 calories a tablespoon. It adds a dose of healthy fats and nutrition, while the seasonings flavor it up to perfection. Get the recipe.

For more delicious recipes, check out Joy's cookbook From Junk Food to Joy Food and follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Check out more of Joy's tips from Drop 10 TODAY.