This Is How to Build a Satisfying Salad, According to a Dietitian — Plus 8 to Try This Week
Full of fibre and low in calories, a good salad can serve as a full, healthy meal — as long as it's filling enough. What's the secret behind a satisfying, nutritious salad? It's pretty simple: include all of the macronutrients (protein, fats, and yes, even carbs), said registered dietitian Audra Wilson, LD, a bariatric dietitian at the Northwestern Medicine Metabolic Health and Surgical Weight Loss Centre at Delnor Hospital. Audra gave us a no-fail strategy for concocting the perfectly satisfying, healthy salad, which you can personalize to your tastes.
- Lots of vegetables: "It's a cliche, but try to eat the rainbow," Audra said. Start with a solid base of greens like spinach, kale, and lettuce, but add more veggies on top of that: carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, even broccoli. With a diverse array of vegetables, you'll consume more antacids (which help you avoid indigestion and heartburn), nutrients, and phytochemicals, Audra said, "but also a lot of fibre, which is really filling."
- Protein: "A lot of times people skip the protein on the salad," Audra told POPSUGAR. That's a no-go. Protein helps you stay satisfied and build muscle, which helps keep your metabolism humming. Audra recommended foods like hard-boiled eggs, fish, and marinated and sautéed tofu, as well as meats like chicken, turkey, beef, or pork. "Try to get about three or four ounces, about the size of your palm," she said.
- Carbs: Try to include complex carbs in particular, Audra said; they take longer to digest, which means they'll keep you full for longer. She recommended adding a half-cup to a cup of beans, like chickpeas, black beans, or kidney beans, which are sources of not just complex carbs but protein and fibre as well. You can also use grains, such as quinoa, farro, or even pasta, but in that case, "think of it like a handful of grains as a garnish," Audra said. "It's more like a condiment on the salad rather than the whole base of the meal."
- Fats: "You want to have some fat in your salad not only for digesting your fat-soluble vitamins but also for satiety," Audra said. "Fats signal fullness in our guts and in our mouths." She recommended using a vinaigrette or yoghurt dressing to add fats. Measure before you pour, though. "It can get really heavy really fast," Audra told POPSUGAR. She recommended using a one or two size dressing container to measure your serving. "Just look at the nutrition facts, and do one to two servings of the dressing, depending on your calorie needs."
The components, not the size, of your salad will determine how full you feel afterward. If you finish your lunch and still feel hungry, Audra said, "think about what was in your salad. Did you have protein? Did you have some grains in there or some kind of a complex carbohydrate? It's likely you didn't, and that's why it's not giving you that fullness."
Those are your building blocks; now get cooking. Click ahead for eight healthy salad recipes that'll hit your macros and fill you up, or use Audra's template and experiment for yourself.