Even the salads can be secret calorie bombs (blame the ranch dressing!), but if your dish looks too weak, you’ll end up hungry an hour later. Like many things in life, good authority is about balance. You want a mix of satiating protein, fruits, and vegetables full of fiber and healthy fats. How does that look? Read on:
How to build low-calorie salad that keeps you full
Understand the personal needs: First, “low-calorie” means something different for everyone, depending on your gender, height, age, and activity level, says Keri Ganz, MS, R.D.N, author of The Small Change Diet. However, she says targeting 400 to 500 calories per meal is an excellent average goal. (Find out your estimated calorie needs here.)
Keep it balanced: Gans says that truly saturated salads have a few key players. First, build the base with as many raw or steamed vegetables as possible. This ensures that your meal contains tons of fiber, nutrients, and variety. Then add a light source of protein (like tofu or chicken), a high-fiber carbohydrate (like quinoa or legumes), and healthy fats (avocado or sliced almonds).
Again, it depends on the personal needs, but a saturated salad should contain at least 15 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.
Watch out for sneaky offenders: “Roasted veggies can make a salad higher in calories because of the extra oil, so it’s best to order the majority of veggies either steamed or raw,” Gans says. Healthy fats can also build up in calories if you’re not careful with your portion sizes. While avocados are a great addition, eating half an avocado instead of a quarter yields more than 80 extra calories.
Here are the Best Low-Calorie Salad Toppings
1. Salmon Salad with the Avocado and Sweet Grape Tomatoes
low-calorie salad – salmon salad with avocado
This salmon salad featured on Fill Your Plate, Lose the Weight contains all the ingredients of a satisfying meal: nearly 30 grams of lean protein, avocado for your dose of healthy fats, and blanched almonds for a hearty crunch. In addition, grape tomatoes and balsamic vinegar add great flavor to an unusual meal.
2. Shrimp, Avocado, and Egg Chopped Salad
Shrimp is the great high-protein alternative to beef or chicken, making it the perfect top salad when you’re trying to limit your calories. This mix also includes the eggs for an extra dose of protein, olive oil for some heart-healthy unsaturated fats, and lemon juice for a fresh, citrusy flavor without the sugar-rich dressing.
3. Strawberry Caprese Pasta Salad
Low-calorie pasta salad? Charity. This summer-inspired dish has only 402 calories per serving, with 13 grams of protein and 7 grams of filling fiber. Whole-wheat penne yield a strong base, strawberries give a dose of sweetness and vitamin C, while mozzarella adds flavor along with olive oil and shallots.
4. Lentil and Steak Salad
The meat doesn’t have to be brown and dull. Instead, top it with colorful arugula, grapefruit, and red cabbage for a healthy, nutrient-rich meal that curbs sweet and savory cravings. To top it all off, you’ll be whisking honey, lemon juice, and mustard together for a no-frills sauce full of flavor. Whie you’re doing this, have you ever wondered why do lemons float and limes sink?
5. Turkey Avocado Cobb Salad
There’s nothing quite like digging into the classic Cobb salad when you’re starving, especially since it offers lean turkey breast, crunchy greens, and delicious blue cheese for a trio that makes your mouth water. Skip the ranch and go for the apple cider vinegar mixed with mustard for a low-calorie dressing.
6. Middle Eastern Rice Salad
Are you tired of greens? Same. You can completely replace it with healthy carbohydrates. In this case, brown rice and lentils provide a protein- and fiber-packed base, while a plethora of veggies—from carrots to tomatoes to onions and celery—boost the nutrition factor with vitamins A and C, folic acid, and antioxidants. Sprinkle a little cayenne and paprika for a distinct smoky kick.
7. Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with a Hazelnuts, Broiled Lemon, and Pecorino
Instead of spinach or lettuce, choose shaved Brussels sprouts. It’s a great way to switch things up and sneak in some fiber while you’re at it. You won’t be disappointed with crunchy hazelnuts, delicious Pecorino Romano, roasted lemon, and finely chopped chives. Just be sure to double a serving size to make it a complete meal with less than 400 calories, 18 grams of protein, and 8 grams of fiber.