Many of us turn to salads when we want a no-brainer healthy meal—they are a great way to get multiple servings of vegetables (which most of us need more of). But I hear a lot of gripes about salads: They’re not satisfying, they’re not tasty, or they’re just too much work.
Here are some habits that might be to blame:
Skimping on protein. When people complain that salads aren’t enough to satisfy, it may be because their combination just didn’t have enough staying power. Protein is one of the most filling nutrients you can add to a salad. Grilled chicken, canned tuna, or leftover steak from the fridge are all good choices and offer high-quality protein, but you don’t have to use meat. Quinoa is high in protein, and so are baked tofu, beans, and lentils. Make a batch on Sundays to add to salads all week.
Using fat-free dressing. Besides the fact that most of them just don’t taste good and have an unsettling gloppy texture (and are often loaded with sugar), research has found that you won’t absorb the carotenoids in all your veggies with a fat-free dressing. You’re much better off using full-fat dressing to soak up all the nutrients–and make your salad more filling too.
Forgetting fresh fruit. Some people pile on dried fruit like dried cranberries or dried cherries to add a burst of flavor and color. But fresh fruit (like sliced strawberries or chopped apples) is smarter. It imparts the same kind of sweetness, but because it’s loaded with water and takes up more space than dried fruit, it’s much more satisfying for a lot fewer calories.
Not tossing it. Do you portion your salad into a bowl and then pour on the dressing? If so, you’re ending up with some pieces that are drenched and others that are dry, which isn’t very pleasant. Take a cue from restaurants and drizzle on the dressing, toss well to coat using tongs (or two forks), then divvy it up. You’ll use a lot less dressing that way but each bite will be coated and flavorful.
Making it inconvenient. Many people skip salads because they seem too labor-intensive. Who’s in the mood to wash, chop, and prep greens and veggies after a long, tiring day? (I’m not!) Instead, take 15 minutes on the weekend to prepare your salad ingredients for the week: Cook and chill a bowl of whole grains, wash greens (place them in a plastic bag along with a paper towel to soak up moisture), chop veggies, and prep add-ins like hard-boiled eggs, grilled chicken, or beans. Buy or make a dressing you love. Take it a step further and assemble a few jarred salads you can grab right from the fridge. When healthy meals are fast, easy choices, they’re much more likely to become a routine part of our lives.