How to Make Salads for Weight Loss

Combine Healthy Salad Ingredients for a Satisfying Meal

Rocket pear and walnut salad.
Stok-Yard Studio / Getty Images

You probably know how to throw a few ingredients into a bowl to make a healthy salad. But, do you know how to make a well-balanced, satisfying, and delicious salad? A salad that includes, greens, fiber, protein, and healthy fat is not only nutritious but also super satisfying. It can also help you reach your health goals.

If weight loss is something you are looking to achieve, you will want to know how to combine ingredients that add just the right amount of calories and fat without excess.

The Best Healthy Salad Ingredients for Weight Loss

Building a salad to meet your nutritional goals, such as weight loss, means making a salad that is filling and appealing to the palate. You will want to make sure that your salad has filling power, which is found in protein, fiber, healthy carbs, and fat.

  • Protein foods help your body to build or maintain healthy muscle. Muscle tissue helps you burn more calories during the day, even when you're not exercising. If you participate in a strength training program, eating more protein will help your muscles develop faster so that you get a stronger body. Protein is also needed to build and repair cells and is important for immune health.
  • Fiber-rich foods help you to stay satisfied after your meal so you eat less during the day. Foods with fiber provide bulk in your belly so you don't have the desire to eat. And if you consume foods with insoluble fiber, fewer calories from the food are digested.
  • Energy-boosting carbohydrates like whole grains, edamame, sweet potato, squash, or roasted pumpkin add volume and flavor to your meal. They also add more fiber.
  • Healthy fat for satisfaction. Healthy fat is an essential macronutrient that has many functions. It helps with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, is important in hair, skin, and nail health, as well as the regulation of metabolism and the reproductive system. It is important to choose healthy fats most of the time.

Building a salad with protein, fiber-rich healthy carbs, and healthy fats can help to keep you full and satisfied—which may help with weight loss 

But that's not all. If you fill your salad bowl full of vegetables, healthy fats, and protein you will optimize your nutrition by getting in lots of vitamins and minerals. Because many of the ingredients in salads are voluminous for little calories, you will likely be eating fewer calories while still feeling full. If weight loss is something you are looking to achieve then including more salads into your diet may help.

Healthy Salad Ingredients (List)

Before you start to make a salad to reach your nutritional goals you need to choose a base. There are so many different greens to choose from. If you're used to one type of salad green, don't be afraid to experiment with a new texture and flavor.

Salad Greens

  • Softer greens like arugula, mache, or a spring mix (a blend of different greens) provide less crunch but more flavor.
  • Crisp greens like romaine, iceberg lettuce, bibb lettuce, and cabbage provide plenty of crunch and texture. They are great for adding bulk to your salad.
  • Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale provide vitamin A, vitamin K, folate, Vitamin C.

Salad Ingredients With Protein

After you've got your bed of salad greens, choose a lean protein. Save time by cooking or preparing a large amount of your favorite protein source. Then divide the food into single-serving containers that you can grab later in the week when you need to make a quick meal.

  • Cubed chicken breast
  • Cooked/seasoned ground turkey
  • Grilled salmon
  • Tuna (seared or packed in water)
  • Beans (garbanzo, kidney, black, pinto, lentils)
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • If you're on the go and you don't have access to a refrigerator, you might not want to add meat or seafood to your salad. In that case, choose beans as your choice of protein. You can also grab a product like TopBit, a crunchy, savory, herb topping that adds flavor, crunch and ten grams of protein.

Salad Ingredients With Fiber

Throw in fiber-rich carbohydrates to boost satiety. These colorful carbs add crunch and flavor. For a different flavor profile you may also add leftover roasted or sauteed vegetables. Remember that you can add unlimited vegetables to boost the fiber of your meal.

  • Spinach (also a great source of protein)
  • Mixed greens or slaw mix
  • Red or yellow peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Avocado (keep your serving small)
  • Lima beans
  • Cubed, chilled, boiled red potato
  • Peas

Energy-Boosting Carbohydrates

Choosing to add even more healthy carbs to add to your meal can increase the volume of your salad. Get creative and use cooked whole grains, beans, or other leftovers (which also increase the fiber).

  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Farro
  • Edamame
  • Lentils
  • Sweet potato
  • Squash
  • Roasted pumpkin

Salad Ingredients With Healthy Fat

Saturated fats, such as cheese, creamy dressings, and fried toppings should be used in moderation. When making your salad aim to use toppings that are high in saturated fat sparingly. Instead, opt for unsaturated fats, such as nuts, seeds, avocado, and oil-based dressing most of the time.

  • Avocado
  • Chia Seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Olives
  • Chopped nuts

Finally, you can add a very small amount of cheese or salad dressing, if you choose. But keep in mind that these will usually boost the calorie count, so it may be best to choose one or the other.

For example, if you choose to add a small amount of cheese, then dress your salad in lemon and herbs instead of an oil or dairy-based dressing.

If you skip the cheese (and croutons, bacon bits, and sunflower seeds!) then add salad dressing. But choose your dressing wisely. You'll find some yogurt-based dressings that are creamy and low in calories. You can also choose to make your own low-calorie creamy dressing or make your own vinaigrette. Homemade dressings are often lower in fat than store-bought varieties. They are also lower in sodium and have no preservatives.

The Best Way to Enjoy Your Healthy Salad for Weight Loss

Now that you've got your healthy meal in front of you, take a moment to plate your food and set a place at your dinner (or lunch) table. These simple steps help you to practice mindful eating. People who take more time to taste, chew, and enjoy their food get more satisfaction from their meal and often eat less as a result.

1 Source
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  1. Gordon, Barbara RDN, LD. How Much Protein Should I Eat? Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

By Malia Frey, M.A., ACE-CHC, CPT
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.