Salad Days: It’s Easy Eating Green

Green salads are full of nutrients, including fiber and cancer-fighting antioxidants. They also can help you lose weight.

Experts say that when they're prepared with health in mind, salads are filling and low in calories, which can be helpful if you’re trying to lose or maintain weight. But even more important, they’re a great way to get your five-a-day servings of vegetables and fruit.

At home or when dining out, the following suggestions can help you add the goodness of greens to your diet.

Choose a variety of greens

Most salads start with handfuls of greens, which is a good thing.

Greens are very low in calories and are a good source of fiber. They're a good way to fill up without adding a lot of calories. One cup of shredded iceberg lettuce has about 10 calories.

Greens come in different flavors and textures, and the combination you choose depends on personal preference and the kind of salad you want.

Although it is very popular, iceberg lettuce has the least amount of nutrients. Darker greens like Romaine, green-leaf, and Bibb are more nutritious, providing lots of vitamin C, beta-carotene, iron, calcium, folic acid, and fiber.

To add zest, toss in escarole, chicory, arugula, or watercress.

Add other veggies

Most any raw vegetable can be cut up and added to a salad: green beans, snap peas, red peppers, carrots, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, asparagus, avocados, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

Make it a meal

Tossing in diced ham, turkey, grilled shrimp, tofu, canned kidney beans, chickpeas, sliced hard-boiled eggs, brown rice, or bulgur can make any mix of greens more of a meal.

Other options

For other ingredients, look in your refrigerator. Leftover sliced chicken, steak, or fish adds interest to salads.

Don’t forget fruit

A handful of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, mandarin oranges, dried cranberries, raisins, or apple or pear slices adds vitamins, antioxidants, and a hint of flavor and sweetness.

Use your imagination

Keep a variety of salad greens, fruits, and vegetables on hand so you can create different salads several times a week. Change the ingredients to create completely different flavors, and you’ll never get bored with healthy salad meals. 

A healthy dressing

Simple, delicious dressings can be made from flavored vinegars, including balsamic, raspberry, or wine. With a flavored vinegar, there's no need to add oil. Other low-fat dressing ideas include soy sauce, lemon juice, and lime juice. Nonfat plain yogurt can be mixed with herbs, onion, or garlic to make a creamy dressing. When eating out, ask for low-fat or nonfat dressing.