We all have a love-hate relationship with salads.
We know we should consume more fresh greens, but sometimes we wonder what the point is if we're just going to wind up hungry 30 minutes later.
And then there's this whole other worry that arises when we see headlines like: "Your Salad Is Making You Fat."
Or, we've committed to eating a daily salad, only to quickly grow tired of the same staples after two weeks. Seriously, is there just no winning when it comes to eating clean?
Elite Daily talked to Nutrition Ambassador Leah Kaufman from Just Salad to find out how to nix the hate and 'what ifs' and fall in love with your bed... of leaves.
1. "My salad doesn't fill me up."
This dilemma can be solved by making sure you are adding enough greens and a variety of ingredients.
"With any dinner or lunch plate you want to make sure at least 1/2 your plate is vegetables. Therefore [your] salad should act in the same way," says Kaufman.
The rest of the salad should include healthy fats and proteins. These can include avocados, nuts, beans and grilled chicken. "Without these two components, salads may fill you for the moment, but won't take you over that afternoon hump," Kaufman advises.
2. "I don't know how to pack a salad for work."
Sometimes it's great to hit up your favorite salad bar, but doing it every day can get expensive.
Often, it's difficult to bring a salad to work because you don't know how to portion it or transport the dressing, so you end up binging on junk food when 3 pm rolls around.
When prepping a salad at home, make sure you add all your thoroughly-chopped ingredients to your bowl and then give it a shake.
If you're putting together a salad from precut and washed greens, it's easy to throw in the large leaves and be done with it.
But doing so creates the illusion your salad is heartier than it probably is. By chopping greens into smaller pieces, though, means it'll be easier to see if you need to add more.
Also, Kaufman says, "Never dress a salad until you're ready to enjoy it." She also recommends cutting avocados at this time as well. However, "You can drip a little lime or lemon on to your avocado to keep from browning."
3. Try to make your salad reflect your favorite meals.
The standard chicken-romaine-cheese salad can get really boring really fast. For example, Kaufman suggests, if you love Thai food, recreate this in your salad choice.
She recommends a salad (also available at Just Salad) which includes chicken, peanuts, beans and cilantro, to fool your stomach into thinking you just had your favorite indulgent dish.
4. The never-ending debate: Which green is best to base your salad with?
"All greens are great, but I would say best of the greatest is kale," says Kaufman. "It's high in vitamins A, K and C."
If you're not into kale, spinach is the next best green. "Spinach is high in vitamins A and K.
If you don't like the taste of kale or spinach, mix your greens," she says.
5. When eating out: chopped or not?
At most salad chains, you have the option of getting your salad chopped to your liking. Although chopping your salad won't result in helping you feel fuller or more satisfied post-salad, it can help the salad taste better.
"It allows the ingredients to be cut into smaller pieces and mixed with one another more evenly," says Kaufman. "You also don't have to worry about mixing the dressing yourself."
6. Get familiar with some unconventional add-ins.
Most people think of raw veggies when it comes to salad, but grilled veggies can add different flavors to your mix. Kaufman also recommends in-season produce, like summer's strawberries and watermelon.
"They are high in vitamins and water, which can help keep you fuller, longer." Or, instead of high-fat crunchies, swap it for Pirate's Booty or pretzels (which are basically croutons anyway).
7. Try the Four Main Staples on your salad.
According to Kaufman, the four main staples of every salad includes: greens, protein, healthy fats and carbs, such as whole grains or fruit. When working together, these four components can help deliver a satisfying salad. Kaufman says:
Greens are full of fiber, which need to be digested slowly and aid in the health of your digestive tract. Protein is essential to make enzymes, hormones and most commonly known for building muscle. By adding protein based foods such as beans, nuts or chicken to your salads, you will also remain full, besides maintaining normal body functions.
8. "Why do I feel weirdly bloated after a salad?"
Kaufman suggests the amount of fiber in certain veggies, like in broccoli or carrots could be to blame for this feeling. She suggest opting for cooked veggies, like grilled asparagus pieces.
The amount of water in the veggies and fruits could be to blame, as well. If you feel bloated post-salad, just remember your body is hard at work absorbing all those nutrients.
9. "What's the easiest way to change up my salad routine?"
Kaufman says switching up the veggies is the way to go. She says:
Each vegetable has various nutrients in them depending on color and composition. Rearranging this mix will not only keep you from feeling bored, but also will help your body get the appropriate nutrients it needs.
Try adding red veggies one week, then switch to some purple or orange, such as in-season beets or carrots.
10. Avoid the ingredients that can make your salad worse than some carb-based meals.
Kaufman advises a four-step checklist to ensure the calorie count in your salad doesn't go overboard:
1. Choose a dark leafy green base with at least two non-starchy vegetables. Kaufman is all about radishes this season, especially because they don't contain starch.
2. If you are looking to add a carbohydrate to your salad, go for one high in fiber, like quinoa.
3. Kaufman notes, "Since salads are being used as a meal rather than a side, it's important to always add a protein." Try adding chicken, beans, tofu or even shrimp.
4. Go with a light dressing or balsamic vinaigrette to top off your salad. Remember: less is more.
You don't always need to drench your greens to get the full-taste effect. If you're not careful, Kaufman says, dressing can add an additional unnecessary 200 calories to your meal.