When it comes to losing weight, salad can be your friend or foe. In its most basic form, a salad is a nutritious food with few calories. However, the ingredients you put into your salad can add up to several hundred calories. In fact, some of the salads in the “Weight Management” section at The Cheesecake Factory have more calories than a hamburger and small fries from McDonald’s. Incorporate low-calorie salads into your diet to lose weight.
Salad Before a Meal
MSNBC reports that women who ate a large salad–3 cups worth–and then waited 20 minutes before eating a meal ate about 100 calories fewer per meal than those who didn’t have a salad. The salad fills you up with little calories, making it difficult to eat more of the high-calorie parts of your meal. If you’re going to try this as a weight loss method, you have to take care of your hunger level. Stop eating when you are full or you can actually eat more than you normally would. You must also take care that your salad contains only low-calorie ingredients, including dressing.
Making a Salad a Meal
Salads can also make a healthy meal choice, either at a restaurant or at home. If you are going to turn a salad into a meal, you need to add some protein to it to help fill you up and sustain you for several hours. Choose low-fat meats, like chicken or turkey, or a vegetarian option, like tofu or chickpeas.
Varying Your Salads
Though eating salads can be healthy, it will get boring if you are eating the same exact salad every day. Try varying your salads so that you can get the benefits of salad without the boredom. For example, one day you may have a traditional salad with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and a host of other vegetables. The next day, you may want a spinach and strawberry salad with a fruity vinaigrette.
The darker the lettuce, the more nutrition it has, so choose romaine, baby greens or spinach to form the bulk of your salad. Add a variety of vegetables. More colors means more vitamins, so add cucumbers, tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, peas, edamame, radishes or anything else that you like. Eggs, tofu, beans and meat add protein if you are making it a meal, as could a handful of nuts. A low-calorie dressing is the best choice, though you could occasionally treat yourself to a creamy dressing.
Watch out for items on the salad bar that can significantly increase the fat and calories in your salad without providing much nutrition. Creamy salad dressings are a big culprit, especially if you are adding several servings’ worth of dressing. A single serving of salad dressing is just 2 tbsp. You should also avoid cheese and croutons, which add calories and fat. Nuts and seeds are healthy, but they are also high in calories, so limit the amount you add. When in doubt, stick to just one high-fat item for your salad.