If you're trying to lose weight, what are you going to eat a lot? Salad. Yes, everyone assumes that you need to eat a lot of salad to tighten your waistline and reduce body fat. This while if used incorrectly it can lead to you unexpectedly gaining weight...
To help you make a nice salad work for you instead of against you, here are five things to keep in mind so you don't get frustrated when you look at the scale.
1. Watch your dressing!
This is one of the easiest things to change, but also one of the hardest. If you're looking at salad dressing and want to reduce the number of calories you consume, there are two things you can focus on. The type of salad dressing you use and the amount of salad dressing you use.
Seems so simple, right? Unfortunately... The first thing many people do is stop using regular salad dressing because it's full of fat. They instead opt for the "fat-free" versions to dramatically reduce the calorie count.
So this is not a good idea. For starters, a little fat in your salad can help you better absorb some of the nutrients in your salad. Depending on the type of fat you use, it's not necessarily "bad" for you either.
Because fat-free salad dressings are low in calories, you probably won't feel full from the meal -- this will make you overeat later in the day. Also, most fat-free salad dressings use corn syrup (if you look at the ingredient list, it's normally one of the first ingredients listed) to replace the fat and make it taste good.
Skip the fat-free dressing, stick with the regular. All you need to focus on is reducing the amount you use and, if possible, choose a type of vinaigrette that contains some healthy fats. If you get a salad on the go, ALWAYS ask for your dressing on the side. Otherwise, you're at the mercy of how much (generally WAY too much) dressing they pour on top.
2. Avoid the croutons!
While it adds some texture and crunch to your salad, croutons are one of the worst things you can add as a topping. Essentially, all store-bought croutons are full of nothing but processed white flour that gives you no health benefit at all. Croutons are often fried, adding unhealthy fat to your diet. Sure, you can use bread and make your own croutons at home, but again, all you're doing to your salad is adding carbs that increase the total calories.
Our suggestion? Skip the croutons altogether. If you go to a restaurant, ask the waiter if you can have your salad without croutons.
3. Add protein!
Lettuce does not contain many calories. It consists largely of water. Even after adding a little vinaigrette to your salad and throwing in some healthy veggies like tomatoes, onion, carrots, cucumber, and even some bell peppers, you're still not going to have a satiating meal that will give your meal a little more volume. If you want to boost satiety, consider adding some protein to your salad. Protein is necessary for building lean muscle mass and also maintaining and maintaining it. Protein is also very filling and can add some quality macros to your salad. Plus, protein has the highest thermic effect of any food (TEF), meaning it takes your body more energy to digest, absorb and use this macronutrient than any other. This means that your body will burn more calories if you consume protein with your meals.
Consider adding some lean cuts of steak to your salad, some hard-boiled eggs, shrimp, grilled salmon, or even the most common source of protein, which is grilled chicken. If animal protein isn't your thing, you can use tofu or other plant-based protein alternatives to add to your salad to boost the total protein content.
Another topping that contains protein that many people forget about is chickpeas. These delicious little balls full of protein can brighten up and enrich any salad.
4. Don't use too much cheese!
While not the biggest culprit when it comes to toppings on your salad, cheese quickly causes the calorie count to skyrocket due to its fat content. The best thing to do is to skip cheese as a topping on your salad or use a small amount to add a little flavor if you absolutely want cheese on your salad.
5. Consider the type of salad you're having!
A salad can be served or made into a taco, with glazed nuts, dried fruit, wontons, nuts, seeds, processed meats, fried toppings, etc. Every little thing added to your salad will change the macros and calorie count.
Many of the toppings mentioned can certainly change and improve the taste of a salad and make it more appetizing, but this can also come at the expense of the calorie count of your salad.