Yes, salads can be a great diet food if you make the right choices. But those choices include making sure that you are getting enough nutrition to keep yourself full until the next meal. Having a salad for lunch does you no good if you end up at the vending machine mid-afternoon because you are starving.
- A strong base – Iceberg and Romaine lettuce are certainly the basis for a lot of salads. However, they really do not pack the nutrition punch that your body needs. Spinach and kale offer much more sustainable nutrition as well as vitamins and minerals.
- Flavor and color – As long as they are not fried or marinated, you can add almost any vegetable or fruit. In fact, the more variety in the color, the better-rounded your meal will be. We eat with our eyes first! Try broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, onions, and butternut squash, even a small amount of apple, grapes, or pineapple.
- Protein – In order to keep yourself full all afternoon, your meal must include some type of lean protein. That can be diced turkey or chicken, flaked tuna (without the mayo), boiled shrimp, hard-boiled egg, tofu, beans, avocado, quinoa, or a mixture of different textures and flavors.
- Fat – A good, balanced, and healthy diet actually does require fats. But understand that this means olive oil not Oreos. For a heart-healthy amount of fat, try using a small amount of olive oil to dress your salad, adding diced avocado as a topping, or even salmon as your natural saturated fat as well as your protein. Or instead you could add a moderate amount of flavor-packed cheese such feta, blue cheese, or shaved Parmesan.
- To avoid – Anything marinated in oil or mixed with mayonnaise or fried.