When you think of diets or weight loss meal plans, salads tend to be the first dish that comes to mind. In essence, a salad is a mixture of food items, vegetables, fruits, nuts, etc. All these ingredients are tied together with the help of a ‘salad dressing’. One usually serves salads cold.
Salads became popular during the time of the Roman Empire. The ancient Romans used raw vegetables with vinegar and oil as the dressing and some herbs for extra flavour. To date, this is still the most healthy and popular way to make a salad.
Here is a list of various healthy salad ingredients and salad recipes that will help you on your weight loss journey.
Types of Salads
1. Vegetable Salad
Vegetable salads, also known as green salads, are precisely what they sound like: salads made mostly of vegetables. While most ingredients are raw, one also throws in some cooked ingredients. These salads mainly contain leafy vegetables like lettuce, baby spinach, kale, rocket, and coriander. Other common ingredients are tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, onions, carrots, sprouts, and radish.
Vegetable salads are a great source of fibre and antioxidants. It helps you reduce “bad” cholesterol, manage blood sugar levels, boost your immune system, and may reduce your risk of chronic diseases. These salads tend to be served as appetisers or as the meal itself. It best suits people on paleo or vegan diets.
2. Fruit Salad
Fruit salads are an excellent option for a healthy breakfast. However, you can eat them as a snack or dessert after a meal. These salads generally contain fruits like apples, grapefruits, pomegranates, berries, etc. You can also add nuts like walnuts or almonds to these salads for a crunchy texture.
Fruit salads can help improve your gut health and eye health. It also contains anti-inflammatory properties and boosts your energy levels. If you do not add honey and other animal-derived products in the dressing, this salad type can also work for vegans. It also suits people on a paleo diet.
3. Mixed Salad
Mixed salads are a mixture of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whatever other ingredients you want to add. Essentially, they are a combination of different ingredients. You can also add lean meats like chicken to these salads.
Mixed salads improve your bone health, boost your immune system, and may help reduce the risk of diseases like diabetes, cancer, and so on. It’s also good for your skin. These salads are best suited for people on paleo diets. It can be eaten as a meal itself and at any time of the day. However, you should eat this salad at lunchtime for the best results.
4. Protein Salad
One can make protein salads using any of the above types as a base. The main difference is that, in this salad, you’re prioritising the inclusion of high-protein ingredients. It’s important to include protein in your diet since they’re essential for the body’s functioning. It’s crucial for maintaining your muscle mass and bone health. Without protein, you will feel tired, weak, and your metabolism rate will slow down.
Protein salads also improve the health of your skin and hair. Adding chicken, eggs, nuts, chickpeas, and other foods like that to your salads will help provide your body with the protein it needs. These salads suit paleo diets, low-carb diets, and Atkins diets. Eat this salad as the meal itself at lunchtime.
Healthy Salad Ingredients
There are many healthy, nutritious ingredients that you can include in your salad. These ingredients help with weight loss and provide you with other added benefits. Here is a list of some of the most popularly used ingredients:
1. Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are a must-have in your salad. Unless it’s a fruit salad, salads tend to feel incomplete without using a few leafy greens like spinach, kale or lettuce as the base.
Spinach is rich in nutrients and antioxidants. It contains high amounts of dietary fibre but remains low in carbohydrates. A study found that dietary fibre reduces hunger and, instead, increases your satiety levels. Therefore, it’ll be helpful if you want to lose weight.
In addition, studies have shown that spinach and lettuce, among others, can lessen depressive symptoms and increase your overall mood as well as life satisfaction.
2. Fresh, Colourful Fruits
Fresh fruits are another commonly used salad ingredient. Among the many wonderful fruits that exist, apples, grapefruits, and pomegranates are some of the best ones to include in a salad.
Since apples are rich in fibre and low in calories, they are known for their weight loss benefits. A study documented three different groups of women. One of them added three apples, the other added three pears, and the third group added three oat cookies to their diet. The three groups stuck to this food choice every day for ten weeks. All three food items are similar in caloric value and fibre composition. However, the women consuming apples lost more weight than the other two groups.
Grapefruits are also low-calorie, high-fibre fruits. The fibre content increases your satiety levels, thereby helping you lose weight. It also contains a lot of water which helps in weight reduction. Studies have linked grapefruit with weight loss. Thus, grapefruits are a great ingredient to add to your salad if you want to lose weight.
Hard-boiled eggs are one of the best high-protein ingredients to add to your salad. One egg has only 77 calories but contains 6 grams of protein and 15 vitamins. Since eggs are rich in nutrients and high in protein, they’re also very filling. Studies have shown that foods high in protein, like eggs, tend to increase the feeling of fullness and reduce appetite. Another study found that consuming high-protein foods can reduce weight and increase satiety levels and energy expenditure.
Nuts like walnuts, almonds, peanuts, or pistachios make great salad additives. Not only do they give your salad an extra crunch, but they’re also highly nutritious. They’re rich in fibre, protein, and various vitamins and minerals. In addition, the findings of a research study linked the habitual consumption of nuts with weight loss.
Avocados are one the trendiest salad ingredients as of late. For a good reason, too, since it’s such a versatile food item. They contain nutritious ingredients like potassium, fibre, vitamin C, folate, vitamin K, and monounsaturated fats. These nutrients can promote healthy ageing as well as improve your heart health. In addition, a recent research study linked the long-term consumption of avocados with lower weight gain and a reduced risk of obesity.
Olives are full of nutrients and flavour. They also have healthy unsaturated fats. A study linked monounsaturated fats with weight loss, lower BMI, waist circumference and fat mass. Olives are also known for their low-calorie density. Studies have shown that foods with a low-calorie density help you feel full for longer, thereby helping you lose weight.
7. Whole Grains
Whole grains like quinoa or brown rice add more texture and flavour to your salad. Due to their protein and fibre content, they help increase your satiety levels. In addition, studies have shown that whole grains aid in weight reduction and reduce your cholesterol levels.
Soft cheeses such as feta, goat, ricotta, mozzarella and the likes are great salad ingredients. They are chock full of protein, calcium, and other great nutrients. Not only that, but they’re also delicious and give your salad a softer, creamier texture. Also, if you are lactose-intolerant, you can try using goat cheese or feta cheese. Feta cheese is rich in a fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid, which can help reduce your body fat.
Chickpeas are known for their weight loss properties. Since they are high in protein, they’re perfect for including in your protein salad. They’re also low in calories and high in dietary fibre. Their protein and fibre content helps slow down your digestion rate and increase satiety levels. Studies have also linked chickpea consumption with lower BMI and waist circumference.
10. Oil and Vinegar Dressing
For weight loss, the most recommended salad dressing is a simple, light oil and vinegar dressing. This dressing is low in calories and contains monounsaturated fats that help reduce weight. They also lower “bad” cholesterol and increase your “good” cholesterol. Studies have also shown that they may help prevent blood sugar spikes.
Healthy Salad Recipes for Weight Loss
#1 Grapefruit, Apple, and Pomegranate Salad
This healthy fruit salad can be the perfect way to start your day.
Prep time: 15 minutes
- Red grapefruit slices: 2 cups
- Chopped apple slices: 1 cup
- Pomegranate arils: ⅓ cup
- Seeded and minced serrano chile peppers: ½ tablespoon
- Fresh lime juice: 1 tablespoon
- Organic honey: ½ tablespoon
- Flaked sea salt: 1 pinch
- Mix the grapefruit and apple slices in a bowl. Then, sprinkle in the pomegranate and minced chile peppers.
- In a separate bowl, combine the lime juice and honey.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and sprinkle the salt.
- Due to the salad’s high-fibre content, it aids weight loss.
- The citric acid present in the salad helps reduce the formation of calcium oxalate kidney stones.
- The vitamin A present in the grapefruit helps improve vision and eye health.
- Apples also promote good gut health since they contain pectin, which acts as a prebiotic.
- Pomegranates have anti-inflammatory properties and thus, can help treat arthritis.
#2 Egg Salad
This healthy protein salad is a great salad option for non-vegetarians who want to start incorporating salads into their daily diet.
Prep time: 15 minutes
- Eggs: 5
- Non-fat Greek yoghurt: ⅓ cup
- Aleppo pepper: 1½ teaspoon
- Sumac: 1 teaspoon
- Extra virgin olive oil: 2 tablespoon
- Tomatoes: 2
- Avocados: 1
- Cucumbers: 1
- Onions: 1
- Lemon juice: 1 tablespoon
- Make hard-boiled eggs in your preferred way, and let them cool.
- Slice the eggs and put them in a medium-sized bowl.
- Season with salt, pepper, ½ teaspoon of sumac, and one teaspoon of Aleppo pepper. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the extra virgin olive oil over it. Toss gently to combine these ingredients.
- In a separate bowl, mix the sliced tomatoes, avocados and cucumbers. Mix in the chopped onions as well.
- Season with salt, pepper, ½ teaspoon of sumac, and ½ teaspoon of Aleppo pepper. Add the lemon juice and remaining olive oil to it. Gently toss to combine.
- Combine this mixture with the egg mixture and gently toss it together.
- Due to the high-fibre and high-protein content, it promotes satiety and helps you lose weight.
- Eggs lead to increased HDL (“good”) cholesterol, which helps reduce many other diseases.
- Avocados are rich in fibre, leading to the growth of healthy bacteria, thereby promoting good gut health.
- Cucumbers contain beneficial antioxidants that help prevent the build-up of free radicals and may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
- Eggs are rich in two specific antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, which help promote good eye health.