Feeling smug while you scarf down the Bikini Time Salad instead of the Fat ’n Juicy Burger Plate at your fave fast-food trough? Drop that fork: Some salads outweigh a cheeseburger in calories and fat content. Wendy’s Mandarin Chicken Salad with dressing and almonds—one of the lighter options among its main-course salads—clocks more calories than Wendy’s Classic Single with Everything burger.

For positive diners, that can serve a side order of health risk. HIV meds, hereditary factors and aging all boost your chance of getting cardiovascular disease. By choosing salad ingredients carefully (and limiting the dressing), you can fill up on nutrition, not calories, fat and salt (too much sodium can raise blood pressure).  

So make like Peter Rabbit, not Porky Pig, when you munch lunch at the salad bar. Lettuce learn:

Limit or skip: dried fruit (cranberries or raisins, for instance); sugary veggies like corn, beets and sun-dried tomatoes; fatty meats, salami or processed chicken; croutons. Even vitamin- and fiber-packed beans tote loads of calories and sodium, so trim your portions.

Pile on: low-fat meats (turkey breast, skinless chicken) and bean curd (tofu); and veggies such as tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, celery, sprouts and yellow or red peppers. Instead of croutons, crumble melba toast or a few crackers on top.

Cheese it: Some cheeses are more healthful than others. Mozzarella and goat cheese outperform cheddar and bleu. Only add one cheese, and do the same with nuts and olives, which are nutritious but fat-laden.

Once you’ve turned over this new leaf, head for the salad-dressing room (see “Dress for Success,”)—and bring your scale.

Salad dressings often swim in fat, sodium and calories, and many bottled “fat free” options  replace oil with sugar syrup, lifting calories and blood sugar. Here are two dressings rich in taste but not fat or calories. Each makes 1 ¥ cups (use 2 tablespoons per salad serving). Refrigerated in a lidded jar, they’ll keep for about a week. Now you’re cookin’.

Avocado and Dill Ranch-style Dressing

4 oz 1% buttermilk
2 oz 1% plain yogurt
1  small avocado, mashed
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp low-fat mayonnaise
          or yogurt
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
          or 1 teaspoon dried
2 tbsp finely chopped green onion
          or chives
salt (or substitute) and pepper
          to taste
Combine in blender or mix by hand.

Per 2-tbsp serving: 44 calories, 4.2 grams fat, 1.3 grams sugar.

Citrus Basil Vinaigrette

5 oz canola or olive oil
3 oz orange juice
1 oz lemon juice (or pomegranate
          juice, balsamic vinegar or rice vinegar)
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
          or 1 tsp dried
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
          or 1 tsp dried
1 clove garlic, mashed
2 tbsp chopped walnuts (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Combine in blender or mix by hand.

Per 2 tbsps, without nuts: 76 calories, 4.4 grams fat, 1.4 grams sugar; with nuts, 138 calories, 10.6 grams fat, 1.9 grams sugar.