Nutrition Articles

The Right Salad May Help You Eat Less

Nutrition News Flash

A recent study had 42 women eating lunch that consisted of a first course salad and a pasta entrée. The salads they ate varied in both the calorie content and the portion size, but all contained lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, celery, cucumber, and Parmesan cheese. The amount and type of cheese and salad dressing was varied to alter calorie amount. Here's what researchers found:
  • Women who started lunch with a "low calorie" salad consumed 7% fewer calories during their meal.
  • Women who ate the small or large portion of "high calorie" salad increased the total calorie intake of their meals increased by 8% and 17%, respectively.
  • The most effective approach for controlling calories was eating a large portion of "low calorie" salad before the main entrée. This approach increased fullness while decreasing the total calorie intake of the meal  by 12%.
Action Sparked
Eating a salad before your meals does more than help you meet your daily veggie quota. Starting with a salad may be an effective tool in helping you decrease your total calorie consumption during lunch or dinner, which can help you manage your weight.  But watch your portions and avoid high-calorie salads full of too many extras like bacon, cottage cheese, mayo, and high-fat cheese or dressings.

To start your meal, I recommend a 100-calorie salad. Enjoy 1-2 cups of a low-calorie lettuce and veggies, such as Romaine or leafy greens, onion, radishes, carrots, celery, cucumbers and tomatoes (totaling 25-50 calories); 1-2 Tablespoons of low-fat cheese (25-50 calories); and 1-2 Tablespoons of low-fat or fat-free salad dressing (25-50 calories).  This combination will fill you up and increase satiety.

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Member Comments

  • This article is so true! I think low fat and low cal are just buzz words. They are used only for the purpose of the business using them. Marketing plow
  • this works for me...
  • I also agree with Azure Sky - low fat and fat free dressings are counter-productiv
  • Agree with Azure Sky.
    I find it hard to start a meal with a salad. It's just not the way I was brought up. In my Italian family, salad was always served after the main meal, to aid in digestion. I do however eat lots of salads as my main meal and include nuts and some protein. It may be a higher calorie salad, but it is nutritious. I don't worry so much about the calories as much as how nutritionally dense it is.
  • #womenlaughingwit
  • I've been trying to increase the "crunch factor" by incorporating chopped celery and sugar snap pea pods into my salads, as opposed to high-calorie croutons. It is tasty and lets me have even more veggies.
    Skip the fat-free dressings and use real olive or canola oil with a flavorful vinegar & some spices. Fat-free dressings are full of sugar and chemicals.

    The oil will help to absorb the nutrients in your foods better, and will help you stay full longer.
  • Interesting info. Thanks for sharing
  • I will allow for all the above additions BUT make the salad my only meal.I may even add a small amount of meat also but there again it it my total meal not a starter to the main meal and I don't use any cheese products as that is pure fat even the lo-fat cheese is too much in a salad.
  • I will have to start eating my salad first
  • Thanks for the article. I often eat a large salad that is never satifing then end up eating a large meal. I guess that is why Im in the shape am in. I will try it!!
  • I am wondering what the tip was on keeping lettuce fresh I missed it.
  • I remember in the past, I ate salads everyday for lunch, and my normal breakfast and dinner, I lost 37lbs. Most I've lost ever!
  • Good article and the helpful suggestion on preserving lettuce is something I will try. As a vegetarian I have salad before dinnern3-5 times per week . I now have my hypothesis confirmed. An 8 oz glass of pure fruit juice can satiate you before meals also. S if you find your self starving while preparing meals, sip a glass of fresh juice instead, dilute with water if necessary.

About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.