Replacing any meal with a simple green salad saves a lot of calories, but limiting yourself to salads alone may actually deplete your body of some essential nutrients it requires to function at a core level. A salad-heavy diet must contain a wide variety of toppings and ingredients to meet your body's caloric and nutrient needs.
Inexpensive iceberg lettuce holds very little nutritional value. Even romaine lettuce, with its basic leafy makeup, is still consistently at least twice as nutrient rich than an equal amount of iceberg lettuce. Spinach is another popular lettuce leaf, and despite the occasional food safety concerns, like the salmonella recall in September of 2009, it holds abundant nutritional benefits. One cup of raw spinach contains just 7 calories, over half of your daily vitamin A and is very high in vitamin K.
A trip to any salad bar in a restaurant gives you a vast number of colorful and tasty toppings to put on your salad. Just because you already pre-loaded your plate with green lettuce, doesn't give you a license to skip out on crispy, healthy vegetables. Cherry tomatoes and carrots are all low calorie salad veggie toppings. Tomatoes contain high traces of the anti-oxidant lycopene, which according to a report from the Harvard Public School of Health, can reduce your chances of developing prostate cancer. Carrots contain beta-carotene, which is essential for vision and may help protect against cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.
The United States Department of Agriculture recommends that all adults eat at least 0.4 grams of protein daily for every pound of body weight. Lettuce and vegetables contain not nearly enough protein to sustain this kind of intake, thus, some form of protein needs to be added to your salads on a regular basis. Chicken breast is a high-protein, low-fat option that can satisfy your protein needs quickly and efficiently. One cup of cooked chicken breast contains just 231 calories, while packing in 43 grams of protein and only 5 grams of fat. If you are vegetarian you will want to add nuts, seeds or beans to your salads for protein intake.
Salads are only healthier than a burger if healthy toppings are chosen. Just 2 tablespoons of ranch dressing contains 140 calories, and 14 grams of fat. That's 5 grams more fat than you'll find in a 1/4 lb. grass-fed patty of ground beef. Instead of loading up on fatty dressing, a healthy salad diet has to make use of "wet" toppings smarter. A lite version of Italian dressing contains just 50 calories, and only 5 grams of fat. According to a study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2003, women who ate oil and vinegar based salad dressings regularly, reduced their chances of developing coronary artery disease by as much as 50 percent.
The body requires vitamins and minerals to operate on a daily basis. These have to be taken in through a balanced diet that pulls from all six major food groups. Salads, even those with a large variety of toppings, still only cover three to four of these groups. Grains provide your body with complex carbohydrates essential to fueling your body's muscles. A salad-heavy diet can only be sustainable if you follow a balanced caloric intake. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute reports that a healthy, balanced eating plan incorporates fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and lean proteins such as eggs, nuts and beans.