Should I Eat a Salad Before or After Eating Meat?

Though salads are typically served before meat at mealtime, you don't have to eat your salad first. In fact, eating meat before salad may help boost your dietary protein intake. However, be sure to choose lean meats and include plenty of vegetables in your daily meal plan because the fiber found in salads and other vegetables is just as important as protein in your diet.

A small green salad in a bowl next to jar of salad dressing. Credit: Howard Shooter/Dorling Kindersley RF/Getty Images

Benefits of Salad First

Eating a salad before your meal may help reduce your total energy intake during that meal, which can be beneficial for weight loss and healthy weight management. According to Michelle Cardel, PhD, RDA, in a 2013 issue of "Academy Today," eating a salad before a meal can reduce your caloric intake during the meal and over the course of the entire day. Eating a salad first may also help boost vegetable consumption by 23 percent, according to a study published in 2012 in the journal "Appetite."

Benefits of Meat First

Consuming protein-rich meat before your meal may also provide benefits for healthy weight management. Protein increases satiety and helps boost your body's energy expenditure. A study published in 2010 in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" found that consuming protein before a meal reduces food intake at the meal. The protein used in this study was whey protein -- however, meat protein is similar to whey in that it's a high-quality, complete protein.

Healthy Food Choices

Not all meat and salad choices are good picks for healthy weight management and heart-disease prevention. For example, if you douse your salad in high-calorie, sugary salad dressing, you may end up eating more calories than you should during meals. Similarly, if you choose high-fat meats -- such as bacon, hot dogs or high-fat cuts of beef -- you'll not only increase the calorie intake of your meal but also boost saturated fat intake, which can take a toll on your heart health. Instead, choose lean cuts of meat -- such as round, loin and flank cuts -- or skinless unbreaded poultry and seafood.

Bottom Line

If you're choosing healthy lean meats and vegetable salads and eating the same portions at each meal, it really doesn't matter whether you eat the salad or meat first. The study published in 2012 in "Appetite" reports that eating salads before meals doesn't drastically affect energy intake, and the quantity of salad eaten may be more important than when you eat it for effective calorie control.

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