How To Build a Better Salad
When it comes to salads, they’re often thought of as a healthy option to help you lose weight. While salads can be incredibly healthy and a fantastic way to boost your nutrient intake, it’s not always the case. If you find yourself adding dressings, simple carbohydrates, like white rice or pasta, and fried toppings, they can very quickly turn from a quick, nutritious meal to a calorie packed bowl that may be contributing to your weight gain. Alternatively, having just a few salad leaves and veggies may leave you hungry very quickly! Let us show you how to build a better salad that will keep you full, satisfied and reaping the health benefits.
The beauty of salads is that they’re so adaptable to what’s in your fridge. If you find yourself stuck for a meal one night in the week, you can make a salad out of almost anything!
First, your base
A good rule of thumb is to go for greens. Dark, leafy greens, like spinach and kale, have amples of nutrients and have both been linked to improved heart health, weight loss and immunity. However, if using raw, kale can be a little tough so just be sure to massage with a little olive oil before using it as the base of your salad. Other great leaves are gem lettuce, rocket, chicory, swiss chard, watercress and romaine. This list is certainly not exhaustive; any leafy greens you enjoy will be a winner!
Then, add protein
The downfall of many salads is that they’re lacking in protein, which is often the reason they don’t keep you full for very long. Protein is vitally important for growth, repair and the maintenance of muscle mass. It also helps to curb cravings throughout the day.
Protein can be found in both animal and plant-based sources. Here are some high protein options to add to your salads:
Animal sources of protein
1 x large egg (approx 60g): 76 calories, 7.6g protein
Chicken breast, 100g (raw): 105 calories, 22.3g protein
Cottage cheese, 100g: 126 calories, 15.4g protein
Tinned tuna in oil, drained, 100g: 220 calories, 24.4g protein
Plant sources of protein
Tempeh, 100g: 195 calories, 20g protein
Lentils, cooked, 100g: 142 calories, 10g protein
Edamame beans, 100g: 110 calories, 9g protein
Tofu, firm, 100g: 119 calories, 12g protein
Some healthy fats
Fats help keep you fuller for longer and also add flavour to your salads. Fats also help with the absorption of fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E and K.
Monounsaturated fats come with a number of scientifically proven health benefits including; weight loss, decreased inflammation, increased sensitivity to insulin and reduced risk of heart disease. You can find very high levels of monounsaturated fats in extra virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, which all happen to be fantastic in salads!
It’s important to be mindful of portion sizes when it comes to adding fats as they are higher in calories; try adding some of these:
½ an avocado, 70g: 145 calories, 15.1g fat
1 tbsp olive oil: 120 calories, 14g fat
20g mixed nuts: 133 calories, 12.6g fat
20g mixed seeds: 117 calories, 10g fat
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A little texture
Crunchy veg like carrots, sugar snap peas or radish can add texture or nuts, seeds or even parmesan crisps are a great way to add crunch to your salads. So often, this step is missed yet it can really satisfy cravings as crunchy textures are often missed when following a low-carb diet.
Quick recipe: Parmesan Crisps
Take a teaspoon of grated parmesan cheese and drop onto parchment paper in circles. Pop them into a preheated oven for 3-5 minutes, at 200℃, until golden, take them out and let them cool.
A pop of colour
The more colours you have on your plate, the more nutrients! Adding vegetables, such as colourful peppers/capsicum or tomatoes can add plenty of vitamins and minerals to your salad. Non-starchy vegetables can be added freely alongside your meals, without the need to count the calories, so feel free to add plenty to achieve satiety.
Lastly, some flavour
Try not to drench your salad in dressing, or buy store bought ones laden with sugar, additives and preservatives.
Dressings don’t have to be anything fancy, nor do they need to be bought from a supermarket, to add to your salads. Salad dressings are absolutely delicious with just a few ingredients that you’ll probably already have in your cupboards. You can keep it simple with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice or try this simple recipe:
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
½ tsp dijon or wholegrain mustard
Salt and pepper
So, despite their reputation, salads can be far more than a plate of lettuce that will leave you underwhelmed and hungry. There’s so much you can do if you follow these simple steps to help you build a better salad.
For some inspiration, here are a few recipes that may help. If you’re looking for more guidance, you may want to try out our Programme, with over 700 delicious recipes, structured meal plans, and a team of qualified Health Coaches to support you and help you achieve a healthy lifestyle.
Chicken and Avocado Salad
150g skinless chicken breast
20g prosciutto, sliced
1/2 baby cos lettuce
1/4 avocado, sliced
60g cherry tomatoes, halved
10g pumpkin seeds
5g parmesan, shaved
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Preheat the oven to fan forced 180°C/200°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Wrap the chicken in the prosciutto and place on a lined baking tray – bake for 20-25 minutes – until chicken is cooked through. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before slicing.
- Arrange your salad in a bowl and top with sliced chicken, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.