Salads can be your best friend when it comes to dieting and weight loss! Not only are they rich in fiber and healthy nutrients, but they’re also typically lower in calories than a meal that involves some sort of carbohydrate. Done right, they can make a world of difference to your diet! If you want to do salads the right way, here is how to go about it:
Step 1: Start with a Nutrient-Rich Base
The best thing about salad is that you can make it a very healthy meal just by adding in a few extra ingredients! Though most of us tend to think of lettuce as being the base of a salad, the truth is that lettuce is fairly low in nutrients—it’s mainly fiber and water, with only a few vitamins and minerals. To really make your salad hyper-nutritious, add in dark, leafy greens: spinach, kale, arugula, chard, and the list goes on. Starting out with this base is the best choice to do salads the right way.
Step 2: Add More Micronutrients
Just because you’ve got the main base of the salad, that doesn’t mean you’re done! There’s so much more that you can add to the salad to make it even healthier. Choices like tomatoes, cucumbers, and celery will help to raise the fiber content and add that delicious crunch factor, but also provide more micronutrients. Grated beets are packed with anthocyanins, and carrots are loaded with Vitamin A. The more variety you add in terms of colorful veggies—and even some fruits or dried fruits—the more varied the nutrients you get from the salad. And that’s what salad’s all about, right?
Step 3: Don’t Forget the Protein
The most important part of a healthy salad is the protein! Protein is what revs up your metabolism and satiates your appetite, preventing you from feeling hungry for hours to come. The best way to do salads the right way is to make sure that it’s got at least one large serving of protein mixed in. Chicken breast is the most common choice, but you can use anything: beef, pork, tuna fish, eggs, and turkey. Or, try going plant-based by adding beans, lentils, or chickpeas. Anything that raises the protein content of your salad makes it a whole lot healthier.
Step 4: Make it Nutty
Nuts and seeds are an amazing addition to your salads! Not only are they loaded with dietary fiber, but they contain a lot of healthy fats that can encourage better fat-burning and satisfy your cravings and hunger pangs. Walnuts, almonds, peanuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and sesame seeds can also do wonders when added into a salad. You’ll find that their added crunch factor makes the salad much more appetizing to your palate, and their high fat and fiber content ensures that your body has everything it needs to stay full for hours after eating.
Step 5: Go with the Right Dressing
The dressing absolutely matters! Most of us are pretty tempted to go with a creamy Ranch or Caesar dressing, but those contain a lot of extra calories without providing a lot of nutritional value. Does that make them bad? Not necessarily, but it’s important that you realize what you’re putting into your body. A bit of extra calories may be worth it to really enjoy that salad, or you could opt for a vinegar-based dressing made with olive oil or a soy sauce-based sesame oil dressing. Vinaigrettes tend to be lighter and contain fewer calories, making them much more diet-friendly than creamy dressings.