08/27/2015 08:40 EDT | Updated 08/27/2016 01:12 EDT

Columnist Tamar Haspel says salad is overrated

Think it's healthy and earth-friendly to munch down on a leafy green salad? Think again, says one longtime food and health writer.

"The real problem is that there's a disconnect between what people expect from salad, and what salad actually delivers," said Tamar Haspel, a Washington Post columnist based in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

"Most of what you're getting when you're eating a lot of salad — and eating a lot of raw vegetables in general — is water, so there's not a room left for nutrition," she told On the Coast host Stephen Quinn.

Haspel said common salad ingredients such as iceberg lettuce, cucumber, and radishes have the least nutritional and caloric value.

"Iceberg lettuce has the same water content as a bottle of Evian, which is 96 per cent water and four per cent plastic," she said.

"What that means is the thing that matters that's on your plate isn't the lettuce, it's the stuff that goes with the lettuce, which is often things like croutons and dressing. Your salad ends up being not so much a vegetable as a vegetable-light side dish. It's a crouton-delivery system."

Environmental impact

Haspel said that, with vegetables like lettuce, cucumbers, and eggplant offering so little nutritional value, a re-evaluation is needed of the amount of land used to grow them.

"We're spending a lot of crop acreage on a vegetable that really doesn't deliver," said Haspel.

She also said that salads prepared in restaurants are often less healthy than salads prepared at home.

"A chicken caesar salad is, surprisingly, often a bad choice that rolls in at over a thousand calories," said Haspel. "At home we're much more likely to put vegetables in a bowl and dress them maybe a little more judiciously."

Cooked vegetables are better

Hasper said it is possible to create a more nutritious salad, and also recommends cooked vegetables.

"Stroll through the produce aisle and you'll find a lot of alternatives from the very substantial — things like sweet potatoes — to the less so. But don't neglect the frozen vegetable aisle,"  she said.

"There are a lot of things in bags where some of the prep has been done for you. If you can throw those things in a plan with some olive oil and garlic...maybe you can keep away from the lasagna with it and have a little more in the way of nutrition than a green salad."

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Food and health writer says salad is overrated