Plain and simple: Most salads are a waste of time. But they needn’t.
Most “meal salads” are really lifeless side salads disguised as “meal salads”. I’m referring to the flavorless, fat-free balsamic vinaigrette… or that all-vegetable salad that makes you hungry an hour later?
Why do so many salads fail? In my opinion, this is because they lack calories and a balanced protein, fat, and carbohydrate mix to keep you full for three or more hours. Inquiring about the salad’s composition and duration of satisfaction are my first questions when a client says they had one for dinner.
If their salad only kept them full for an hour, it was probably due to a lack of ingredients. More protein More lard. More carbs, please! This will give you more calories, which is important for a satisfying and filling salad.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come up with six salad suggestions. So here are three of my favorite satisfying salads to remember.
1. Add bread when in doubt
Aside from the salad greens, people often skimp on carbs in salads. These are usually starches from vegetables like corn or beets. Do not misunderstand me. While corn and beets are fine and even great additions to salads, they are rarely sufficient.
In order to make a salad more filling, I recommend adding grain-based starches. This can be used in place of or in addition to starchy foods. A side of bread is my go-to grain-based salad starch. With bread, I feel fuller for longer. This is a great way to use up leftover bread. I like wild rice, farro, couscous, and buckwheat in my salads.
For a salad without grains, try serving it with a half-sandwich.
2. Adopt fat-based dressings
These vitamins are believed to be better absorbed when eaten with fat. In fact, researchers compared participants’ nutrient absorption after eating salads with varying fat levels in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The nutrients alpha-and beta-carotene (precursors to vitamin A) and lycopene were almost completely absorbed by those who ate a salad with no fat dressing. These nutrients were found in much higher concentrations in the blood of those who had a fatty dressing. According to the study, adding 6 grams of fat to any salad maximizes vitamin and mineral absorption.
Fat, which slows gastric emptying, helps you feel full and satisfied. So, what does this mean for your own salad? If you want your salad to be a meal, you must include fat in it.
3. Protein is important
You should eat at least three meals per day with 15-30 grams of protein. It’s much easier to get your protein needs met by adding meat, poultry, or fish to your salad.
So long as you’re creative and mindful of serving sizes, you can still get your protein fix. Sorry, but a tablespoon of beans isn’t enough. For a meal, you need at least a half cup of beans, which are high in fiber and other nutrients. As an example, a tablespoon of lentils contains only about 1 gram of protein, as opposed to a half cup, which contains 8.
In addition to the dressing, you should include the following salad toppings: If you add nuts, seeds, cheese, grains, and veggies like brussels sprouts, asparagus, or broccoli to your salad, you’ll get more protein overall.
4. Make sure it mentally satisfies you
A full stomach does not mean it is sufficient. It also doesn’t mean the salad was tasty. Consider it. In the end, a plate of vegetables isn’t enough to fill you up.
So how do you know if the salad was enough? The fullness dissipation test. Keep track of how long you feel full. For those who prefer smaller meals or snacks throughout the day, a meal should last between two and four hours. The second test is whether you seek out more food soon after you eat. Unsatisfied with a meal, I tend to rummage through the refrigerator cabinets for more. Insatiable appetites are suppressed by satisfying meals. Then add more toppings to your salad to keep it satisfying physically and mentally.
5. Experiment with flavors
I love adding pickled or salted items to salads because it enhances the flavor. Capers, pickles, sauerkraut, or pickled onions are all examples. I also like to add hummus to my salads to give them more flavor and nutrition. This not only makes salads more filling, but it also adds flavor and richness to every mouthful.
6. Effortless dressing
In a mixing bowl, combine the dressing and the salad ingredients. This ensures all ingredients are evenly coated in the dressing, making the salad taste ten times better.
After sharing my favorite tips, here are three of my favorite creative, filling salad recipes.
Trader Joe’s Quick Prep Lentil Salad
Food ingredients include:
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 cup butter lettuce
- 1 small chopped beet (I get the pre-packaged cooked beets from Trader Joe’s)
- 1 cup arugula
- 1 Tbsp. capers
- 1/2 sliced avocado
- 3/4 cup cooked lentils (I get the pre-cooked bag from Trader Joe’s)
- 1/4 cup garlic croutons
- 1 Tbsp. Caesar dressing
- 1/8 cup thinly sliced leeks
- 1 slice of your favorite toasted baguette
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients (except the bread) and toss with the dressing.
- Toast bread and spread with butter or dip it in olive oil before serving.
Deconstructed Burger Salad Bowl
Food ingredients include:
2 animal-or plant-based burgers, prepared according to package instructions.
- 1/4 large sweet potato, cut into wedges
- 1/2 sweet onion
- 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
- 8 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 4 oz mushrooms, cut in half vertically and sliced thin.
- 2 large handfuls of mixed greens
- 1/4 cup pickles
Avocado-Herb Dip Dressing
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- 2 tsp. lemon zest
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 avocado
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Combine sweet potatoes, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and black pepper in a large bowl. Arrange wedges in a single layer on the baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes.
- While the sweet potatoes bake, sauté the onions as follows: In a cast-iron or nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and add the onions. Season with salt and continue cooking for another 12-15 minutes, or until the onions begin to reduce and brown on both sides. Cook for an additional 15-20 minutes to achieve fully caramelized onions.
- Sauté the mushrooms: In a separate pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Season with salt and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the mushrooms begin to brown.
- Avocado Herb Dip: In a small bowl, mash the avocado, lemon juice, and lemon zest with a fork. Stir in olive oil. Stir in basil, green onion, salt, and black pepper.
- Construct your bowls. Each bowl should be garnished with greens and a burger patty. Between the bowls, divide the sweet potato wedges, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and pickles. Avocado dip on top
Soyrizo Kale Taco Salad
Food ingredients include:
- 3 cups of Tuscan kale, chopped
- 1/4 cup medium onion, chopped
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1 cup cooked black beans
- 1/2 jalapeño, deseeded and chopped
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 lime, juiced
- 1 avocado sliced
- 1/2 cup soyrizo
- 1/2 cup salsa
- 3-4 tostada shells
- Salt to taste
- In a large bowl, combine the kale, tomato, onion, beans, cilantro, jalapeo, lime juice, and olive oil.
- Toss all ingredients together and garnish with avocado, soyrizo, and salsa. Season with salt to taste and serve with tostada shells.