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How to Beat Holiday Bulge with Simple Salad Tricks

This is the time to pay penance for Halloween candy sins and still clean up your act before the holiday bulge threatens to derail your diet. The first thing to do is bulk up on your veggie intake, especially in the form of appetite-squelching salads. Hate low-cal dressing? Think you don’t have time to make salads? Think again, says Keri Gans, MS, RD, CDN, author of The Small Change Diet: 10 Steps to a Thinner, Healthier You.

Start Dinner with a Salad
Whether you’re eating in or dining out, this small change is crucial. It’s an opportunity to fill yourself up as well as add fiber and other nutrients to your meal. If you already include a side salad with dinner, wonderful! If you don’t, it’s time to start, because as long as you don’t use high-calorie toppings and dressings, salads are low on calories and high on satisfying fiber. They’re also delicious.

But let’s not forget: A salad is built with veggies. Begin with a cup of leafy greens, which are rich in folate, a B vitamin needed for the growth of healthy cells. The darker the greens, the better (but if you don’t like them, don’t use them). Then add bright-hued veggies—tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, and red, yellow, or orange bell peppers. The more colorful the veggies, the more health-promoting phytochemicals they contain.

I’ve worked with patients who love salad (but just forget to eat them) and those who dislike it (but then get used to it). Among the most common salad sob stories I hear:

I hate dark leafy greens!
Small Change Solution: Then don’t eat them. The point of eating a side salad before dinner is to help fill you up, so you eat less protein, starchy carbohydrates, and fat. If you only like iceberg lettuce, that’s fine by me. (Every once in a while, I enjoy a wedge salad—which is always made with iceberg lettuce—dressed with balsamic vinaigrette instead of the standard blue cheese.) Or, if you just hate salads in general, double up on your veggies at dinner.

I don’t have time to make a salad.
Small Change Solution: I hear this a lot. My response is always, “How long does it take to pop open a bag of lettuce, throw it in a bowl, and add a few grape tomatoes?” Washed, bagged lettuce, and prewashed, precut salad veggies are there for time-pressed folks like you. Use them.

Low-calorie diet dressings taste terrible!
Small Change Solution: If you think they taste terrible, don’t use them. Or maybe you just haven’t found the right low-calorie dressing? In any event, make sure you use the correct serving size (generally 2 tablespoons) and pass up on any other added fats in your salad (i.e., cheese, bacon bits, and croutons). Another trick: Put the dressing on the side, dip your fork in the dressing, then spear up your lettuce and veggies; if you used to ladle on the blue-cheese or Thousand Island dressing, you’ll save hundreds of calories without denying yourself the taste you love.

Small Change Salad Tips

  1. Slice and chop enough veggies (i.e., cucumber, onion) for two or three days of salads.
  2. If you find the taste of greens bland, sprinkle them with a tablespoon of tangy feta or Parmesan cheese (adds a lot of flavor for not a lot of calories or fat).
  3. If you miss the crunch of croutons, top your salad with a tablespoon of chopped almonds, walnuts, or sunflower seeds.
  4. When you can’t muster the will even to tear open a bag of prewashed greens, make your side salad at your supermarket’s salad bar. You’ll pay for the convenience, but you’ll also stick to your healthy eating plan, and that’s priceless.
  5. If you’re starving when you get home from work, prepare your salad, eat it, and then cook the rest of your meal.


Avocado mango salad


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