I can’t tell you how many times I have sat across from a woman eating a huge salad for lunch or dinner and thought to myself, “How soon is she going to need to eat again? That’s not a filling meal!” Western culture has drilled into our heads that the best possible meal is greens, raw vegetables and some salad dressing, and that salad eating is the ultimate path to weight loss and health. This is actually a myth.
I think we all know this. That is why people often add high fat foods to their salad: nuts, dried fruits, cheese, meat, rich salad dressings. Adding these high fat foods is an effort to make salad satisfying, but it’s not the healthiest way to eat (for more information on this, see 5 Simple Ways to Cook with Less Oil). There is a better way.
Why Salad Is Healthy
Salad composed of green leafy vegetables and other vegetables are an integral part of a healthy meal. Fresh vegetables contain lots of fiber, which help lower cholesterol and prevent constipation. Green salads and vegetables are full of antioxidants, which help protect the body from damaging molecules. Since processing (such as frying) makes food less nutritious, raw and steamed vegetables are good daily choices for health.
Why Vegetables Are Not Enough
The main reason that you can’t live on salad alone is that your body needs starches for energy. (See last month’s post about the importance of starches.) If you eat only vegetables, you will not be satiated because there are not enough calories or carbohydrates to keep you feeling energetic and happy. This means that you will feel hungry (and probably irritated) and be more likely to binge.
Salad Is Part of a Meal
Salad and vegetables on their own are not a meal. Instead, it might be helpful to think about a salad (or any vegetable dish) as part of a meal. Salad and vegetables can take up 50% of your plate or less, but no more.
The other 50% (or more) of your plate can be:
- Tubers: potatoes, sweet potatoes, yam, etc.
- Starchy Vegetables: Winter squash, Pumpkin, etc.
- Legumes: lentils, peas, beans, etc.
- Intact Whole Grains: Brown rice, quinoa, etc.
This is a well-balanced meal which will help you feel full and satisfied. You won’t find yourself prowling the cupboards for a snack an hour later and you won’t feel deprived or lacking in energy.
Your turn: What is your favorite starch to eat along with your salad?