This article has been updated from its original publication date of 3/6/22 to include more information from experts.
A salad is widely considered the epitome of a healthy meal and frequently recommended in any well-balanced diet. If you’re still experiencing weight gain, heartburn, upset stomach, or other indigestion-related negative effects, it’s worth looking into what you’re consuming daily and what could be the main culprit.
If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ve probably been advised to eat salads or similar vegetable bowls, so we consulted with licensed nutritionists for advice on how to make them optimal for weight loss, and what common ingredients could be the cause. Read on for tasty salad ingredient ideas and healthy eating and weight loss tips from Jay CowinNNCP, RNT, RNC, CHN, CSNA, Registered Nutritionist and Director of Formulations at ASYSTEM, as well as Lisa Richardsregistered nutritionist and creator of The Candida Diet.
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Tip #1: Avoid Creamy Dressings
Thick, creamy, and heavily sweetened dressings are often linked to heartburn and bloating, and essentially defeat the purpose of a salad, which is meant to be a healthy meal. Creamy salad dressings, especially commercial ones, Cowin notes, can “aggravate indigestion” because they’re high in acid and are usually full of fats, sugars and other additives. “This slows down the digestion process or makes it difficult to properly break down food, leading to extra stomach acid production,” says Cowin. Additionally, acid regulators in salad dressings can irritate the stomach and cause heartburn.
When it comes to weight loss, creating a filling and satisfying salad is a “great way to make sure you’re actually full after eating,” which can prevent overeating or binging at other times. of the day, says Richards. She adds that “a filling salad doesn’t need to have a lot of unhealthy ingredients to get the fullness you want to accomplish.” She explains that satiety is largely based on the activation of stretch receptors and nutrient receptors in our stomach.
Tip #2 — Replace fried proteins with grilled dishes
Rather than adding fried chicken or other protein to your salad, Richards suggests opting for grilled versions. “Grilled or smoked chicken provides lean protein without the excess calories and fat from frying and breading,” she explains. “Steak can be a good protein,” she says, but you’ll want a leaner cut of beef.
Fried onions and croutons are two toppings that quickly add “empty calories, carbs and fat” to any otherwise healthy salad, she warns. Instead, she says to “look for salads filled with nutrient-dense toppings like black beans, avocado, tomato, cucumber, low-fat cheese, corn, peppers, and other fruits and vegetables”. Romaine lettuce or a mixed green mix is preferred over iceberg lettuce, she adds, because “the nutrient content is higher.”
Suggestions for healthier salad ingredients
It’s certainly hard to adjust to a major dietary change and stop eating your favorite foods when trying to lose weight, but as these experts note, if your favorite salad ingredients are contributing to indigestion or weight gain, you are much better off without them. “If you can’t skip the dressing when eating a salad, the helpful alternative is to make one yourself,” advises Cowin. “That’s how you know exactly what’s going on and can avoid any ingredients that will make your GERD or acid reflux worse.” He suggests adding “a little extra virgin olive oil” as it’s a good ingredient to use as a salad dressing “since it has a low level of acidity.”
“By adding a variety of nutrient-dense vegetables, nuts, and even whole grains,” says Richards, “we can ensure we’re full, satisfied, and well-nourished.” She keeps; “Some of my favorite salad toppings include asparagus, cucumbers, walnuts, artichokes, olives, quinoa, corn, and sliced almonds.” These are just a few to choose from and can be added in a variety of combinations!