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Striking the Perfect Balance for a Satisfying Salad Solution

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Striking the Perfect Balance for a Satisfying Salad Solution

It is 2 o’clock in the afternoon and those hunger pangs have hit you. You ate a big salad for lunch so you shouldn’t be hungry, or should you? It’s time to sharpen your skills on how to build a better salad that will keep you full for most of the afternoon but won’t have the calorie count of a large hamburger, fries and shake.

  • Build a strong foundation with greens and vegetables. Start your salad off with dark greens such as Romaine, kale, red tipped lettuce and spinach. Throw in all types of colorful vegetables you like: tomatoes, carrots, beets, red cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. Think outside the box and consider lightly steamed or grilled vegetables from the night before. These foods are full of antioxidants and provide fiber for sustainability. Each has a unique nutrient profile so you don’t get into a rut and have the same vegetables every week. Change the variety you buy from week to week. Also, add a flavor punch with fresh herbs such as dill or cilantro. Salad greens and vegetables are low in calories and are great as a side dish, but if this is your entire meal, a good protein source is essential.  
  • Add protein “power.” Protein is vital for satiety to keep you from getting the afternoon slump. Top your vegetables with foods that have staying power—either lean meat such as skinless chicken, turkey, salmon or tuna or vegetarian options, such as beans or tofu. See the Mix and Match Salad Shakers table below for ideas.
  • Complement with a healthy complex carbohydrate. Fiber-filling carbohydrates provide your body with energy and keep you from burning protein for fuel. Examples are quinoa, brown rice, corn, roasted sweet potato, beans and fresh fruit. Keep portions to about 1/2 to 1 cup. An alternative is 100 percent whole grain crackers such as Wheat Thins, Triscuits or Whole Grain Wasa Crackers.
  • Don’t be extravagant with the “extras.” I call these the "pearls" and "rubies." These add zip to your salad but can turn it into a calorie bomb, so use sparingly! Choose one or two of them and keep the total to 1-2 tablespoons. This will add about 50-100 extra calories. Limit bacon and cheese that contain more saturated fats that can raise your cholesterol.
    • Cheese
    • Tortilla chips
    • Dried fruit               
    • Nuts
    • Avocado        
    • Seeds
    • Croutons                
    • Bacon
  • Dress for success. Dressings can add up to 300 calories for each 1/4 cup used. Many entree salads in restaurants have double that! Fats are definitely important in a meal to help you feel fuller longer. They also help absorb fat soluble vitamins in many of the vegetables in your salad foundation. Here are some practical tips to keep you from wrecking a healthy salad.
    • Choose healthy fats in small amounts: avocado, nuts and oil-based dressings.
    • Always order your dressings on the side. Dip your fork in the dressing and then in the salad. Each bite will have a little taste of dressing.
    • Balsamic vinegar is almost devoid of calories and sodium. Gingerly sprinkle your salad with vinegar and then lightly drizzle with olive oil. Keep in mind that 1 tablespoon of olive oil has 120 calories.
    • At home buy a salad mister to fill with your favorite dressing. This lightly disperses the dressing over the entire salad.
    • Try balsamic vinegar and then, for added flavor, use 2 tablespoons of nuts or a few thin slices of avocado.
    • A trick for Southwest salads is to use salsa for your dressing. If you still want Ranch dressing you will end up using less if you put the salsa on first.

Build a satisfying salad using the Mix and Match Salad Shaker table below. Also, try the Southwest Chicken Salad, an entree salad that is a recipe for success. It will keep you going throughout the afternoon but doesn’t break the calorie bank.

Mix and Match Salad Shakers

Article by: Patty Kirk, RDN, LD, registered dietitian nutritionist and licensed dietitian at Cooper Clinic. For more information on nutrition consultations visit the Nutrition web site or call 972.560.2655.