Salad: When Should You Eat It?

We all know that salad is a healthy choice when it comes to optimal nutrition. What most of us are unsure about, however, is when we should be eating it, i.e. before the main meal, after the main meal, or AS the main meal.

Whether you choose to eat a salad before, during, or after your main meal, studies have shown that the mere fact that salad is included with any meal, can reduce energy intake, i.e. calories, by 11%.[1] So, adding this leafy friend will prove beneficial, no matter what.

Salad before your main meal

One benefit of eating your salad before the main meal is that you are more likely to be hungry, and therefore, more likely to eat it in its entirety, helping to increase your veggie intake which, for most Americans, is sorely needed. In fact, according to the CDC, only one in ten Americans gets enough fruit and vegetables daily.[2]

Another added benefit of eating your salad first is that it could help with your weight loss efforts. Loading up on a good-for-you veggie-packed salad can mean you will feel less hungry come mealtime and consequently, consume fewer calories.

Salad during your main meal

Including salad (or veggies in general) with your main meal ensures that you are following the recommended guidelines put forth by the USDA. According to their MyPlate initiative, one-half of each plate should be made up of fruit and vegetables.[3]  So making salad an integral part of your main meal can be a really good new habit to integrate.

Salad as your main meal

Eating salad as your main meal for lunch or dinner is a wonderful way to get your greens. If you opt for this, however, make sure you include some protein and whole grains. For instance, add some cubed ham, cheese, or another source of protein in your salad and accompany it with a slice of whole-wheat bread. 

Salad as dessert?

In many cultures, eating salad is an end-of-meal tradition. Some people think that doing so aids with digestion as salads are rich in fiber. Others say that consuming salad can cleanse the palate, so to speak. While there isn’t concrete data to confirm these notions, eating salad after your meal is beneficial because it inevitably adds to your daily veggie intake. Also, you might be less likely to consume sugary sweets less-than-healthy desserts if you are full and fully satiated – an added benefit of eating salad.

So, as we have seen, including salad in your daily routine is a highly effective way to up your nutrition game. When you eat it, is pretty much up to you, your preferences, and your goals. The important thing to remember is that consuming salad on a more regular basis will ultimately ensure that are more easily able to meet the Dietary Guidelines that are so essential to our global health.

 

References:
[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3264798/
[2] https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p1116-fruit-vegetable-consumption.html
[3] https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/what-is-myplate

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