Salads may be the first foods that come to mind when you think about weight loss, and for good reason. They can be low in calories and filling at the same time, making them ideal for reducing hunger on low-calorie diets. They can also be highly nutritious. If you are using salads to help you lose weight, make sure you are familiar with the healthiest versions, and vary your recipes to prevent boredom.
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Low-Calorie Green Salads
You need to consume fewer calories than you expend to lose weight, and salad greens are low-calorie foods that can be foundations for many different side salads and main course salads. A cup of romaine lettuce has 8 calories, while a cup of spinach has only 7 calories, and these greens are good sources of fiber, potassium and vitamin A. Add other chopped vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts, onions and carrots, and make your salad more interesting with diced apples, raspberries, mandarin orange segments or other fruit.
Avoid High-Calorie Pitfalls
Salads can become high-calorie if you are not careful with the ingredients that you add. Full-fat dressing, such as ranch, has 126 calories per 2-tablespoon serving, and buttered croutons and chow mein noodles are also common high-calorie additions. Use low-calorie dressings and limit your portion size to limit the calorie content of salads so you can lose weight faster. Also be careful of full-fat cheese and high-fat meats, such as salami, bacon pieces and fried chicken, because they can also add calories quickly.
Include a Source of Lean Protein
Protein is a filling nutrient that is slower to digest, so you do not get hungry as soon after you eat. Including protein at each meal can also help you lose weight because it stabilizes your blood sugar levels and reduces sudden feelings of hunger. Baked or broiled chicken breast, shrimp, low-sodium sliced turkey breast, tofu, canned tuna, low-fat cheese, cooked egg whites and beans are all lean sources of protein to consider adding to main course salads.
Think Outside the Box
Green salads are not the only salads that can be a part of your weight loss diet. Instead of high-calorie, low-nutrient side dishes, such as buttery mashed potatoes and gravy, white rice or white pasta, select lower-calorie salads with whole grains, such as pasta salad made with Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise, quinoa salad with tomatoes, red peppers and curry powder or barley salad with balsamic vinegar, sun-dried tomatoes and cucumbers. Bean salads can also be low-calorie, filling side dishes that are high-protein and high-fiber.