You cannot go wrong with a salad right? Hmmmm, maybe but in more cases than not, our favourite salads and the the salad combos that we can readily find pre-made tend to be a little off balance when it comes to getting the right mix of carbs, proteins, veggies and good fats. A number of our favourite salads including chicken Caesar, pesto pasta, pumpkin and feta and noodle salads can contain as much as 50g of fat in a single serve – with numerous high fat ingredients, creamy sauces and large serves of rice, pasta and noodles. So what may appear to be a good choice may not be such a healthy option after all. So, if you really want a healthy salad that supports weight control, here is how you create one.
Step 1 – Salad greens
Whether you choose Cos lettuce, rocket, English Spinach or a hearty serve of mixed leaves, following the mantra “the darker the leaves, the better they will be for you” will ensure that you are on the right track with your salad base. Salad leaves are rich sources of fibre, Vitamins C and K and generally form the base of a salad that will help to keep you full for a number of hours after eating it. If you keep in mind that we need at least 2-3 cups of salad or vegetables at both our lunch and dinner meals, you can see how important it is that salad actually forms the base of our salad, as opposed to pasta, rice or noodles.
Step 2 – Plenty of brightly coloured vegetables
The greater the variety and the more colours, the better – carrots, cucumber, celery, tomatoes, roasted beetroot, pumpkin and capsicum just some of the large range that you can add to your salad. If you find yourself struggling with throwing out too much fresh produce at the end of each week, try making one large salad each week and add the wetter items such as tomatoes later. This way you always have some salad ready to go and can even add to sandwiches, wraps and crackers as extra fillers throughout the day
Step 3 – Some carbohydrates for energy
A plain salad without any bread, crackers or other forms of carbohydrate may appear to be the most healthy, calorie controlled option but remember that not eating adequate carbohydrates throughout the day can leave you feeling unsatisfied and more likely to binge eat later in the afternoon. Adding a small amount, between ½ – ¾ of a cup of low GI carbohydrate to your salad in the form of sweet potato, corn, 4 – bean mix or enjoying the salad with a slice of wholegrain bread or a few quinoa or corn crackers will create a good balance of carbs and proteins (see below).
Step 4 – Lean proteins for nutrition
Adding a serve of lean protein such as tuna, salmon, egg, chicken breast or a small serve of lean meat not only provides filling bulk for your salad but also has much to offer nutritionally. Protein foods are rich sources of iron, zinc, Vitamin B12 and omega 3 fats. Remember, the less processed the better and if you choose tuna in olive oil, simply make sure that you drain off the extra oil to avoid a fat overload in your salad. As a general rule of thumb 70-100g of protein is a serve.
Step 5 – Added fats
Salad dressings, nuts, seeds and cheese may all be tasty additions to any salad but they are all high fat choices and can quickly turn your thus far healthy salad into a calorie overload if you are not careful. Aim for just 1-2 of these additions to your salad, such as an olive oil dressing and avocado or nuts or feta – not all three. Adding some healthy fat to your salad has been shown to help regulate appetite for the remainder of the day so it is worth adding some, you just do not need a lot.