Diet Myth #2: Plain Vegetables are Better for You

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
1/3/2012 6:00 PM   :  23 comments   :  16,513 Views

As part of our research for "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight," we conducted a "Ditch the Diet Taste Test." We asked successful SparkPeople members, yo-yo dieters and others to answer questions about weight loss, healthy eating, and dieting--and to pit Chef Meg's healthy, delicious recipes against traditional, bland "diet food."
 
You can read all about the Taste Test in Chapter 2 of "The SparkPeople Cookbook," but this week we're sharing five of the diet myths we debunked as part of that project.

Diet Myth #2: Plain Vegetables are Better for You

Love broccoli with a bit of butter? Some cheese on your cauliflower? Want some (reduced-fat) ranch with that salad? Go ahead. We insist!

I love vegetables, but even I can’t chow down on a bowl of dry greens. It’s a matter of preference, but I always dress my greens before I serve a salad. Each bite is well coated and flavorful, and I’m not tempted to overload on dressing at the table. Some people prefer to have dressing on the side, which is a good idea in theory. The next time you ask for dressing on the side at a restaurant, notice the amount they give you. While I use less than a tablespoon of dressing per salad, restaurants deliver up to four times that much. Even if you daintily dip the tines of your fork into the salad before each bite, you’ll still likely use more.

At home, when you’re in charge, try tossing your greens in a measured amount of dressing. You’ll find flavor in every bite.
If you're opting for fat-free dressings because you think it's better for you, think again.



Small amounts of healthy fats are an important part of the satisfaction of a salad. A little fat will do, but you’ll find that a vinaigrette with a balance of rich oil and tangy vinegar is more enjoyable than vinegar alone.

Still not convinced? Your body can’t make use of certain vitamins and antioxidants (beta-carotene, vitamin D, and vitamin E in particular) without a bit of fat to help process them. In addition, fat helps transport vitamins A, D, E, and K.

In 2004, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who consumed salads with fat-free dressing absorbed fewer phytonutrients (the organic components of plants) and vitamins than those who ate the same salad of spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, and carrots with a dressing containing fat.

Our taste testers agreed. During our Ditch the Diet Taste Test, those who ate iceberg lettuce with a fat-free dressing rated it lower than our mixed greens salad with Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette (page 387).

SparkPeople Cookbook Challenge: Add some fat to your dressing. Whether you make your own (check out Chapter 12) or buy one with a short ingredient list is up to you. Your salad will be so much more flavorful and satisfying.


Learn more about this diet myth in "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight." Click here to get five sneak peek recipes, too.


Do you buy into this diet myth? Why or why not? Do you prefer veggies plain or with a bit of sauce, butter, or dressing?


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Comments

  • 23
    I don't normally use dressing on my salads, but I do add avocado, nuts, or beans for fat content. - 5/13/2012   11:36:19 PM
  • 22
    I always have my dressing on the side, and dip the fork.. as for using more..
    i take 2 tablespoons of dressing to work.. and it lasts me every day for lunch for 2 weeks.. so it is all about portion control and how you watch it.
    I prefer my lettuce with apples or pineapple instead of dressing..
    as for the vegetables.. i still have not found a way to eat them period. i just cant gag them down period. - 1/10/2012   1:41:53 PM
  • 21
    Just because the restaurant gives you a lot of dressing doesn't mean you HAVE to use it all. I rarely use a quarter of the amount served and I ALWAYS ask for dressing on the side because I believe that "salad shouldn't go swimming".
    Regarding the taste test between iceberg lettuce with fat-free dressing vs mixed greens with Tomato-Basil vinaigrette. Well, duh! Iceberg lettuce has NO taste at all, while mixed greens can have a variation of taste. So were you really testing the dressing or the whole salad?
    For me personally, some fat-free dressings are good and some are horrible. The same can be said for low-fat dressings and full-fat dressings. It all depends upon how they are made and how your own taste buds respond to them.
    Again the REAL message should be portion control! - 1/5/2012   11:20:26 AM
  • 20
    One comment is important to repeat: waitresses know that when people ask for "dressing on the side" they are given more than twice the amount that would have originally been put on the salad. So don't ask for it on the side and then pour it on yourself! Portion control, people! - 1/5/2012   12:32:28 AM
  • 19
    I like veggies plain, but they taste even better with hummus! - 1/4/2012   6:53:00 PM
  • 18
    I always use a little (measured) dressing on my salads, and "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" on my vegetables. - 1/4/2012   5:24:40 PM
  • 17
    I have a friend that likes her fat. She read some article like this and justified eating lots and lots of salad dressing with her salad citing that you cannot digest salad at all without fat. Yuck.
    I find that a little goes a long way.
    - 1/4/2012   3:34:39 PM
  • 16
    Generally speaking, I love my veggies and always have.

    I realize that we have to be careful about going overboard with salad toppings, but I've found that if I put a few crumbles of really good blue cheese and a teaspoon or so of chopped walnuts on 2 cups of salad greens and toss it with a teaspoon of balsamic vinaigrette, I am a seriously happy camper. I love the black walnuts we have here in Missouri and I like to include some arugula or other bitter greens. The combination of flavors just burst.

    Another favorite combination is to toss baby spinach with the balsamic vinaigrette, top with sections of a tangerine and sprinkle on some sunflower kernels for crunch. Since the tangerine adds a citrus-y sweet note, I don't miss having that sweet and sour combination that comes with the traditional hot bacon dressing that generally accompanies a spinach salad.

    To dress up steamed broccoli, I add some diced red bell pepper before cooking. It looks pretty on the plate and provides a sweetish contrast to the bitterness of the broccoli.

    I love roasted corn, but as a stand-alone, I'm not generally satisfied with the recommended serving size. I solve this by adding roasted corn kernals and black beans to a luncheon salad and use salsa for the dressing. I get my corn "fix" without going overboard.

    There are so many wonderful ways to enjoy veggies. I feel sorry for people who haven't developed a taste for vegetables. They offer such a variety of flavors and blend well with each other as well as with fruits. - 1/4/2012   12:52:24 PM
  • 15
    Vegetables plain or seasoned is fine with me...but I agree with some commenters here fat free dressing can be just awful tasting. I rather use less of the full fat version than more of the fat free one. - 1/4/2012   10:00:39 AM
  • 14
    Many times I will use salsa instead of salad dressing to give the salad some zing. - 1/4/2012   9:06:57 AM
  • 13
    Everything in moderation and real food over fat-free...way too many chemical additives and sugars/sugar substitutes in 'diet' foods.

    It;s about eating healthily - 1/4/2012   8:57:56 AM
  • CJLADYLIBRA
    12
    I find that shaking some Organic Chia Seeds (heard it from DR.OZ) on to , or in to my food really gives you a super full feeling. They are WONDERFUL. Everyone should try these MIRACLE seeds. Good Luck, And God Bless You All. Cindy - 1/4/2012   8:14:07 AM
  • 11
    I usually use regular blue cheese dressing but thin it with balsamic vinegar. I poor the dressing over my salad and use about 1/2 to 1/3 of what is brought to the table at a restaurant. I get a nice light coating of dressing with no dressing pool in the bottom of my salad once I finish eating my salad. - 1/4/2012   6:50:54 AM
  • 10
    I disagree that you eat more dressing with the fork dipping method. I usually eat only about a fourth of what is served to me and I am quite satisfied. It is good to know about the fat free vs the reg though.
    - 1/4/2012   4:58:56 AM
  • TRYINGHARD1948
    9
    I think if i amin this lifestyle for life then I have to enjoy what I am eating. It is amazing what a taste difference there is with just a tiny amount of dressing
    - 1/4/2012   2:44:46 AM
  • 8
    I don't like fat-free dressing. - 1/3/2012   11:46:17 PM
  • PRUSSIANETTE
    7
    Sorry, I gotta disagree with the comment on that dipping your fork in the dressing is worse than dumping and coating the salad with the dressing in a restaurant. When you are at home you can mix the salad in whatever size it takes to appropriately mix the salad. In a restaurant you are often given a salad on a plate. I don't know about you, but I can barely eat the salad without it falling off the plate, much less try to mix it. And most restaurants drench it in dressing if you don't put it on the side, so it's still dressing on the side with fork dipping for me! - 1/3/2012   11:40:24 PM
  • 6
    PS I want to put in my own plug for the SparkPeople Cookbook. A treasure trove of delicious, healthy recipes. I actually prefer most of them to much of the stuff that's available in restaurants. Try to quinoa pizza cruts. Incredimous! - 1/3/2012   11:12:16 PM
  • 5
    Nothing can be good for you if you don't eat it! Thanks for a great, sane article. - 1/3/2012   11:10:42 PM
  • 4
    Would be nice if I could find the beef bacon crumbles - I can't always find beef bacon! But a little butter is good - it also contains CLA which helps deal with belly fat. - 1/3/2012   11:00:14 PM
  • 3
    I love olive oil on vegetables with a little red pepper and salt. I also use the wish bone salad spritzer. When I was pregnant, the midwife informed me that it was good to eat the spinach salad with some bacon crumbles (which is how it is usually served, and I was really happy about that! - 1/3/2012   9:39:15 PM
  • 2
    Knowledge is definitely power!!! A little bit of fat is OK! - 1/3/2012   7:00:03 PM
  • 1
    I don't particularly like fat-free dressing, but I ate it for the obvious low-fat reason until a couple of years ago when the low-fat fad got tossed as there were more sugars in low-fat foods. Raw vegetables are great, but cooked ones become more flavorful with a little butter or parmesan cheese on them! - 1/3/2012   6:55:23 PM

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