Salad is the quintessential diet food, but it’s so versatile that it’s hard to even pin it down to a single food group. Typical salad ingredients like fresh veggies and fruits are low in calories and ideal for steady weight loss, but rich dressings and other additions are less than light. If you intend to lose weight by eating just salad for a month, see your doctor or a dietitian before you begin for help planning balanced meals.
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All About Salad and Weight Loss
According to food historian and reference librarian Lynne Olver, salad is generally defined as a dish of mixed leafy greens with some type of dressing. However, a broader definition can encompass dishes like macaroni salad, tuna salad and warm grain salads, which may not have any greens at all. Whether your salads will help you lose weight depends on what they contain. You need to create a calorie deficit to be able to slim down over time, so choose ingredients that have lower calorie counts, such as fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean meats, eggs, beans and legumes, low-fat cheeses, tofu or other soy products.
Go Easy on Dressing
Salad dressings can be an enemy when it comes to weight loss. Most are oil-based and have generous amounts of fat and calories per serving. In fact, if your salad is made up of primarily veggies or fruits, it’s possible that a small amount of dressing has more calories than the entire bowl of food. Three cups of spinach, for example, has just 20 calories and less than 1/2 gram of fat, but a 2-tablespoon serving of ranch dressing has 125 calories and more than 13 grams of fat.
Eating only salads for a month can be classified as a fad diet, a type of eating plan that promises quick weight loss and restricts what you can eat. Since fad diets typically exclude entire food groups -- such as dairy, grains and proteins in the case of traditional salads -- they can result in nutrient deficiencies and weight loss that is mostly water weight and muscle mass. Fad diets also have the potential to negatively affect your metabolism, making future weight loss more difficult and weight regain more likely. If you're going to eat salads for a month, make sure you include all the major food groups to get the nutrition your body needs.
Eating a variety of nutritious, low-calorie foods and losing no more than 2 pounds per week is the healthiest way to slim down. Restricting your diet to just salads may make following that strategy difficult, but it’s not impossible. For example, a low-calorie salad that contains healthy foods from all main food groups may have a base of greens, some citrus segments and other sliced veggies and fruits, 1/4 cup of cooked quinoa, a hard-boiled egg, a few crumbles of feta cheese and a dressing consisting of small amounts of olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.