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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Comments (28)

  1. Nancy says:

    I cannot find the recipe for the tuna salad in the picture either.

  2. Paul says:

    I use a light/low calorie salad dressing ranch or blue cheese to mix with the tuna and veggies

  3. Hi guys, we don’t have a specific recipe for the above tuna salad, but it’s an example of the kind that Toby makes (she loves olives in hers). To try your own, just throw together a mix of diced tomatoes, cucumbers, sliced red onions, corn, a few olives (whichever kind you prefer) and then a handful of croutons or toasted bread chunks. Then just mix in canned tuna packed in water — stick to about 3 ounces per serving. A squeeze of lemon juice on the mix will add some moisture and more flavor.

  4. Linda InAk says:

    Well I have to say that does look good. __I generally don't use mayo. I use nonfat sourcream with some nonfat yogurt to make my tuna/chicken salads.

  5. Jan says:

    The salad at the top of the page looks delicious,but where is the recipe?Please post this recipe.Thanks

  6. Dee Chenoweth says:

    I used water-packed albacore tuna and add nonfat plain yogurt and some sweet pickle relish. It's really good on salad greens or on whole grain bread.

  7. judy says:

    Thanks for the recipe of the picture. I will be making this soon.

  8. Sue says:

    Does fresh tuna have less mercury than canned?

  9. tamidor says:

    Hi Sue,
    Great question! The tuna's mercury content does not change when they are canned. You will find differences in mercury between different varieties of tuna–for example, albacore and bluefin have less mercury than bigeye tuna.

  10. Leslie says:

    Sometimes I'll mix a bit of tuna with some vinegrette type salad dressing and eat it like that as a bit of a protein snack. But I like the idea of mixing beans and chickpeas in it since I love beans and chickpeas.

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