Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved vegetables. My mother used to call me a rabbit, and I would call her lucky. Granted, I was a bit picky in that I only liked my veggies raw, but still, what mother isn’t lucky to have a kid who loves vegetables?
As I’ve gotten older, salad continues to be a huge part of my diet. In fact, most lunches and dinners consist of at least a salad appetizer, if not a salad entrée. So, when people complain to me that salad isn’t very fulfilling, it’s hard for me to understand. When I ask them what they put in their salad, however, it becomes clear why they’re unsatisfied. Plain and simple, they’re not putting enough nutrition and calories in their salad!
Salads are a great, healthy food that can be very filling and nutritious. But you have to stop treating salads like diet food and start treating them like meals. These three tips will ensure that your salad leaves you feeling satisfied.
1. Include protein . Most salads aren’t fulfilling because they’re lacking in protein. Granted, salad by definition focuses on vegetables, but protein is crucial to making you feel fuller, longer. Further, protein boosts your metabolism by ensuring you’re maintaining muscle mass, which burns more calories than fat. Here are some ways to get some healthy proteins into your salads:
Chicken: Opt for white meat that is either baked or grilled. Avoid fried chicken, chicken salad, or dark meat. Portion: 3-5 ounces or an amount similar to the size of a deck of cards
Salmon: Loaded with Omega 3s, salmon provides you with protein and healthy fats to keep you fulfilled. Portion: 3-5 ounces or an amount similar to the size of a deck of cards
Low-Fat Cheese: When possible, opt for low-fat or fat-free cheese. This will help to keep the saturated fats  down in your meal. Portion: 1/4 cup
Nuts:  Nuts give your salad an extra crunch and provide you with wonderful fiber, protein, and nutrients. Portion: 1/4 cup
Note: If you’re a vegetarian, combine the nuts and beans in your salad to make a complete protein.
2. Choose a variety of quality vegetables: Throwing some iceberg lettuce into a bowl and calling it salad is like calling a few knock-knock jokes comedy. It just doesn’t make the grade. Vegetables are obviously a key ingredient in a salad—they provide tons of vitamins and minerals and are a great source of fiber. Use those vegetables that provide the most nutrients for the punch. Further, the more colorful your salad, the more vitamins and minerals  you will be getting. Here are some of the most nutrient-dense vegetables:
Baby Spinach/Dark Leafy Greens: When it comes to lettuces, aim to ditch the romaine and iceberg for more dark, leafy lettuces and greens. Spinach especially is filled with nutrients that ward off heart disease, colon cancer, and autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and osteoporosis.
Tomatoes: If you didn’t know already, tomatoes are actually a fruit, but they’re often used in salads. Tomatoes are filled with lycopine, which helps to fight cancer. They’re also filled with vitamins A and K, they keep blood pressure low, and they contain free-radical fighters called antioxidants.
Broccoli: This member of the cabbage family is filled with antioxidants, is high in folate, vitamin C, and beta-carotene, and is a great immune system booster.
Carrots: Carrots are filled with antioxidants and vitamins A and C. They’re wonderful for keeping eyes healthy, and skin and hair looking their best.
Onions: Whether or not you’re an onion fan, they’re great at warding off heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
Bell Peppers: The best part of bell peppers is that they come in a rainbow of colors (there are actually purple bell peppers!) and they’re filled with tons of nutrients that ward off heart disease and cancer.
Cucumbers: Cucumbers taste great in salads. They’re also wonderful for hydrating the body and helping lower blood pressure.
3. Load up on vegetables: It kills me when I see people go to the salad bar and put only a few vegetables in the smallest sized container and call that lunch. No wonder they aren’t satisfied! The truth is, it’s really hard to overdo the amount of vegetables you eat; the more the better. Veggies are very nutritious, are high in fiber, and have very little calories due to their high water content. Further, the more veggies you include, the more likely you’re going to fill up and feel satisfied. So go for that large container and fill it to the brim!
When you dress the salad, always use olive oil and vinegar, or if you want a premade dressing, use vinaigrette. This will help to keep saturated fats, sugar, and sodium out of the goodness of your salad.
Try these tips out and see how filling your salad feels. Do you eat salad for a main course? Do you use these tricks? Do you have your own tricks to make them filling and healthy?
By Brett Blumenthal of Sheer Balance