Salads and weight loss go hand-in-hand, right? Whatever diet or lifestyle change you've got going on, salads get the thumbs up! That's because veggies are full of hunger-satiating fiber and water to make you feel more full, and eating more veggies is one of the easiest things you can do to reach your weight-loss goals.
In order for your bowl to help you lose weight, we asked certified dietitian Leslie Langevin, MS, RD, CD, of Whole Health Nutrition to offer tips on how to make a salad for optimal weight-loss results.
"The darker the green, the more nutrition: kale or spinach, mixed greens, even romaine does have a ton of nutrition vs. iceberg lettuce," Leslie told POPSUGAR. If you go for the prewashed, ready-to-go packages of mixed greens, you'll get a range of lettuce without a ton of effort. Faster and easier means you'll actually make a salad! Leslie also likes to recommend cabbage as a base for a salad to not only offer fiber and a satisfying crunch, but as a "mega-detoxifier and cancer preventor (because of it's sulphur phytochemical compounds)." Bonus!
Add Healthy Fats
This is incredibly important for helping your salad feel even more filling to keep you satisfied longer. Just be mindful of not going overboard with avocado, nuts, seeds, and dressing. Healthy fats tend to be higher in calories, so measure out your toppings.
The bigger the chunks, the more chewing you'll need to do, which sends a message to your brain that you're eating a lot! Leave cherry tomatoes whole, cut large pieces of pepper, carrots, and cucumbers, and because eating a chunky salad will take longer, you'll feel like you ate more than you actually did.
Add Cooked Whole Grains
Sometimes a bowl of raw veggies just doesn't cut it. Add cooked whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, or barley, and it'll offer a satisfying chewy texture, filling fiber, and complex carbs to sustain your energy.
Add Cooked Veggies
You can also add cooked veggies to make a salad more exciting and feel more substantial. Add roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash, sauteed peppers or mushrooms, steamed broccoli, or string beans.
Go For Variety
People tend to feel like salads are boring, which is why they're not as psyched to have them for lunch. Make yours enticing by adding a variety of colorful veggies, fruits, protein, healthy fats, and cooked grains and veggies. If you just sit down to a bowl of lettuce, cucumber, and carrots, you're more likely to reach for more food (pizza?!) soon after.
Also switch up how you cut your veggies. If you usually slice carrots, grate them. If you usually dice cukes, make ribbons. You want to look forward to this salad so it's emotionally satisfying, so make it exciting!
While a bowl full of veggies will offer fiber to fill you up, you need protein to sustain your energy. Leslie said that adding three different varieties of protein is a great habit to get into. It adds visual variety, as mentioned above, but also fills nutritional holes. Some protein sources include marinated chickpeas, nuts, tofu, baked tempeh, grilled chicken or salmon, cut-up veggie burgers, shelled edamame, cottage cheese, and feta.
Make It Ahead
To encourage eating a big salad once a day, take an hour Sunday night to prep salads for the week — you can even make them with beans and quinoa. They'll stay fresh for up to five days!
Or Leslie is a fan of making a DIY salad bar to keep in the fridge. So instead of skipping on the dinner salad because it takes too much time to get the veggies out and cut them up, you can grab the precut veggies and whip together a fresh salad in minutes.