Tuna Salad, Lightened Up

by in Meal Makeovers, October 6, 2009

tuna salad
Tuna salad is one of my go-to foods for a party or casual luncheon, but I never drench my mix in mayonnaise or oils. Besides upping the calories, adding gobs of mayonnaise drowns out the tuna flavor. Next time you plan on making tuna salad, try these variations.

Nutrition Facts
Some folks think they’re eating healthier when they order a tuna salad sandwich. Wrong! A deli tuna sandwich can have anywhere from 600 to 800 calories and 30 to 40 grams of fat. The cheapest and smartest option is just to make your own and toss it in a packed lunch.

Straight-up tuna is packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fats, but the benefits don’t end there. Three-ounces of canned tuna (that’s half of a regular-sized can) contains 100% of your recommended daily amount of selenium, an antioxidant that may protect against some forms of cancer. It also has significant amounts of B-vitamins, such as niacin and vitamin B-12.

If you’re worried about the mercury in canned tuna, choose chunk light tuna over solid white varieties; it has less mercury. As a general rule, limit your weekly fish intake (of all fish, including tuna) to 12 ounces to play it safe.

The Lighter Side
First off, always opt for tuna packed in water, not in oil. Three ounces of water-packed tuna contains 109 calories and 3 grams of saturated fat, while oil-packed tuna contains 165 calories and 9 grams of saturated fat. Canned foods can be full of sodium; to cut your sodium by about 75%, rinse the tuna for a minute.

Using less mayo or a water-packed tuna are not the only ways to keep the calories down. Believe it or not, mayo is not a required ingredient for a good tuna salad. Try adding a touch of olive oil (about a half tablespoon per person), mustard, balsamic vinaigrette, hot sauce, lemon juice, plain yogurt, spices or even tahini (sesame seed paste) instead.

Other good-for-you additions: fruits, fresh veggies and even beans. Dana loves using bits of apple in her tuna salad; I prefer mixing in chopped veggies such as celery and scallions. I really love tossing in some olives, too. Give your tuna salad a Mediterranean makeover by adding some sun-dried tomatoes and cannellini or great northern beans.

What to Serve It On
Tuna salad on Trader Joe’s soft 100% whole-wheat bread is my favorite, but you can go beyond the loaf. Wrap a couple spoonfuls in a tortilla or stuff some in a pita pocket. You can also enjoy your new tuna delight on a bed of greens or with three or four crispbreads — I like Wasa or Ryvita. And remember, just because the deli piles it on, doesn’t mean you should. Stick to the three-ounce portion of fish and boost you meal with a bunch of added veggies or a side salad.

TELL US: How do you prep your tuna salad?

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