So, you’re on a diet. You know you should be eating salads—they’re full of healthy vegetables—but the thought of living on rabbit food for the foreseeable future is less than appetizing, right? Not to mention the fact that you know you’ll be starving almost as soon as you’re finished eating. Chances are good you’re going about it all wrong. Salads can be healthy, filling and delicious once you get beyond the iceberg and carrots.
1. Pack On the Protein – Consuming a diet rich in protein is essential to a healthy diet. Medical experts suggest that adults eat between 40 and 60 grams (1.4 oz. to 2.4 oz.) of protein per day. Protein helps you feel full, so adding to a salad makes sense. Protein can come from a wide variety of sources and doesn’t always need to come from animals. Knowing how to add protein to meals is important when you’re trying to lose weight. Lean protein like grilled chicken or salmon are excellent salad toppers. Nuts and seeds contain protein and can be easily sprinkled on salads. Hard-boiled eggs and cheese are full of protein and make a delicious addition to salads. You can also try adding cooked beans or other legumes as well.
2. Great Grains – Don’t shy away from adding grains to your salad. They will make it more satisfying and keep you feeling full longer. Consider adding half a cup of warm brown rice, lentils, or quinoa. Whole grains are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients and are also rich in carbohydrates, the body’s main fuel supply. Research shows that people who regularly eat whole grains are less likely to put on weight compared to people who rarely eat them.
3. Heat It Up – Salads don’t have to be cold. Grilled or sautéed onions, peppers, mushrooms, and meats wilt salad greens and make them slightly warm, adding depth and character to an otherwise boring salad. Warm potato salad makes an excellent topping as well.
4. Hearty Portions – Making a meal out of a salad isn’t anything like eating a chicken dinner with all the fixins. You don’t need to worry so much about portion sizes. The nutritional profile of a salad is also totally different and far superior, so by eating more (without stuffing yourself) you are only adding more nutrition to your body, not detracting from it like you would be overeating acid-forming foods like chicken and potatoes. You need to eat a much larger quantity of salad to satisfy your appetite. Forget the so-called salad bowl. Use a large bowl or plate and fill it up!
5. Healthy Fats – A 2012 study out of Purdue University found that fat is an essential part of any healthy salad. Researchers argued that low- and no-fat salad dressings made the vitamins and nutrients in salad greens and veggies less available to the body. That’s because carotenoids (a class of nutrient that includes lutein, lycopene, beta-carotene and zeaxanthin) are fat-soluble and can’t be absorbed by the body unless they’re delivered with some fat as well. That doesn’t mean you can dive into the blue cheese dressing. They qualified that the fats must be healthy, monosaturated fats including avocados, olive oil, tahini, cashews or fresh cheese.