What is the first image that pops up in your head when you think of diet?
The answer is salad, right?
Are you on a diet trying to lose weight?
Are you eating many salads but not losing any weight?
Or are you, perhaps, on a diet to help you gain weight?
Have you wondered if salads can make you fat?
Salads are amazingly versatile and nutrient-packed.
Can salads help you lose weight? Or can they be chock full of calories too?
Let’s find out!
What goes in a salad?
The English word Salad finds its roots in the Latin term herba salata which roughly translates to salted vegetables, as the earliest records of salads in history were described as mixed vegetables seasoned with brine.
Salads are typically prepared using an assortment of vegetables or fruits that may be raw or cooked, along with a sauce or dressing to combine all the ingredients.
Other complementary items used may include dried nuts or seeds, crackers, croutons, and a source of protein and fat.
Salads can easily be customized to be a main dish when a large portion of protein is added. They are also served as an accompaniment or dessert, depending on their components.
Types of Salads
Salads can be of many types.
Salads can be tossed or they can be composed (when the ingredients are arranged in a particular fashion).
A few common styles of salads are:
Garden/ Vegetable Salads: These are salads mainly composed of leafy green vegetables such as varieties of lettuce and cabbage, spinach, arugula, and kale.
Tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, spring onions, peppers, and beans are also commonly used.
Bound Salads: Salads combined using thick sauces such as those that require mayonnaise, make up this category.
Main Salads: Any salad that contains one or more portions of protein, especially animal-based protein, is the Main Salad. Shrimp, chicken, eggs, chicken, or pork cutlets are popular choices.
Dessert Salads: These are sweet and are made using fruits and berries. Often set in a gelatin mold or combined using sweet cream.
Science of Weight Management
The human body requires a certain amount of calories to function throughout the day.
Consuming more calories than needed makes you fat and consuming fewer calories results in weight loss.
This phenomenon, when applied to salads, simply means that the components of a salad will determine its effects.
Nutrient content of Common Salads
Energy 156 kcal
Protein 7.78 g
Fat 11.82 g
Carbohydrates 4.32 g
Energy 24 kcal
Protein 1.18 g
Fats 0 g
Carbohydrate 4.71 g
Fiber 1.2 g
Can Salads help you lose weight?
Yes, salads are an excellent choice for weight loss!
Common salad ingredients that aid in weight loss are:
Vegetables and fruits
Vegetables and fruit, which make up the largest proportion of salads, are high in water and fiber and low in calorie content.
High fiber and water content make you feel fuller for longer periods after a meal. It also helps regulate blood sugar and prevent Type -2- diabetes.
Research shows that people who consume a greater variety of vegetables in their salads were significantly less likely to be overweight.
Studies show that adding protein sources to your diet can improve satiety.
Grilled Salmon, tuna, chicken, and even an egg, or some low-fat cheese are high protein sources to make your salad more appetizing and nutritious.
If you would prefer a low-calorie and plant-based alternative, tofu, beans, legumes, peas, and nuts are great options.
The salad dressing is the sauce that helps ingredients mix and is the primary source of flavor.
Opt for a vinegarette when preparing a low-calorie salad.
A vinaigrette requires vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, and whatever you would prefer to season it with, all whipped together.
The secret ingredient to balance everything out is a bit of mustard paste!
What can make salads full of calories?
1. Wrong Dressing
When assembling a salad, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is choosing the wrong dressing.
Creamy dressings made with ingredients like mayonnaise, cream, cream cheese, and full-fat yogurt add an unwanted amount of fat to your salad.
These can bump up the calories of your salad and make you drowsy and bloated because of the high-fat content.
2. Croutons/ Carb balance
While croutons may bring ‘the crunch’ to your salad but the serotonin high is not worth it.
Croutons are prepared using refined flour and add unnecessary simple carbs to your salad.
Often commercially prepared croutons are fried and thus contribute more fat to your salad.
3. Poor Topping choices
Dried fruits and nuts are high in calories and are often treated in salt or sugar.
Excess intake of sugar leads to more calories, unregulated blood sugars, cravings, and inflammatory reactions.
4. The wrong type of proteins
Adding protein to salads has several health benefits, however, using energy-dense or processed meats has more adverse effects.
Sausages, fried meat cuts, bacon, and pepperoni have a high trans fat and sodium content that causes elevated cholesterol levels.
Fatty meats such as pork, ham, beef, and even too many eggs are poor protein choices.
Another error is using too much or high-calorie cheese.
These common mistakes leave you confused and demotivated, but most of all, results in undesirable weight gain
Can Salads lead to a healthy weight gain?
Yes, of course, salads can be customized for weight gain.
Some simple tips to help you gain weight sustainably:
-Use healthy fats, for e.g. olive oil, canola oil, avocados, olives, and peanuts to add calories and fulfill your daily fat requirements.
– Add high protein sources such as tuna, tofu, eggs, grilled steak, or salmon for maximum benefits and added satiety.
– Make your dressing with full-fat yogurt. It is a great probiotic and has proteins and calories.
– Add dried nuts or nut butter to stock up on your Omega -3- and Omega -6- fatty acids.
To conclude, with the right mix of ingredients, salads are a staple for a healthy and balanced diet.