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  • Sherry

It's OK if you don't eat salad for lunch

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

There seems to be a commonly held belief, perpetuated by the diet and weight loss industry, that in order to be healthy, you should only eat salad for lunch. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about eating your vegetables. They are full of vitamins, nutrients and fibre. Aiming for the minimum recommended 5 servings a day will most certainly improve your health for the better. HOWEVER, salad is not the only way to eat veggies. In fact, choosing salad for lunch may actually be working against your health goals. Read on for five surprising reasons why having a salad for lunch may actually be sabotaging your health and what you can do instead.

1. You believe it's a healthier, lower calorie option, when it actually isn't

This is especially true when dining out at restaurants. Depending on what's on the salad, you may in fact be consuming an equal if not larger amount of calories. For example, at Earls, the Grilled Chicken Caesar salad is 900 calories, which is roughly equivalent to their gluten free California Pizza or Better Burger with side salad. Restaurants tend to use an excessive amount of salad dressing and high calorie toppings. Additionally, restaurants use industrial seed oils in their salad dressings which are pro-inflammatory.

What to do instead

  • Choose a salad with a base of mixed greens or spinach over iceberg lettuce, which has few nutrients.

  • Ask for dressing on the side so you can control the amount you use and better yet, ask for an option that uses olive oil over canola, soy, or other vegetable oils.

  • Opt for, or request a grilled protein over a breaded and fried version

  • Have the burger or sandwich with a side salad and remove the top half of the bun (or skip it altogether)

2. Eating only salad for lunch leaves you hungry and seeking a snack 2 hours later

This is a very real possibility if your salad consists mostly of lettuce, one or two other vegetables and a drizzle of low-fat dressing. There are simply not enough calories to provide sustained nourishment. The result is that you end up seeking out a mid-afternoon snack, and since you had salad for lunch 😇, you opt for a sweet treat like a cookie, brownie or chocolate covered granola bar.

What to do instead

Ensure that your salad includes all components of a balanced meal:

  • a full serving of protein,

  • a smart carb: this can be in the form of fruit; starchier vegetables like beets, squash or potatoes; a whole grain like quinoa; or legumes like lentils or chickpeas,

  • a garnish of healthy fats like avocado, olives, seeds or nuts in addition to your olive oil based salad dressing.

3. Eating salad feels like dieting, even if you aren't

Years of yo-yo dieting and media influence have created an association between eating salad and dieting. So even if you are not actually on a diet, eating salad makes you feel like you are which then causes subsequent feelings of deprivation and restriction. These feelings can feed the diet-binge cycle common with emotional eating.

What to do instead

Start to develop positive associations with salad by noticing and appreciating the:

  • different flavours and textures

  • rainbow of colors

  • variety of nutrients, fiber and vitamins that will fuel your body

  • endless combinations of possible salad ingredients

4. You associate eating salad with being virtuous

We've been conditioned by the diet industry to group food into 2 categories - good and bad. Salad is good. Pizza & burgers are bad. Vegetables are good, French fries are bad. As with any label, there's a danger that the label gets internalized and we become good when we eat salad and bad when we eat bread. Even if you know intellectually this isn't true, language has a strong influence on our subconscious. When we say things like "I was good, I had salad for lunch", or "I'm being bad and ordering the burger", there is an impact on our mental and emotional wellbeing. We end up making food choices based on these judgements and labels and not what our body truly wants and needs at any given meal.

What to do instead

Think of food choices as existing on a continuum instead of being either good or bad, and then ask yourself:

How does this food affect my body? How do I feel physically after eating it?

How is this food made? Do I know what all the ingredients are?

Does this food, fundamentally, nourish me in some way?

What’s a possible alternative?

Is this the best available choice under the circumstances?

How could this choice be just a little bit better?

5. You don't like salad.

This may be revolutionary, but guess what? It's totally ok if you don't like salad! Not everybody does. We all have different tastes, preferences, likes and dislikes. Salad is not the only way to eat vegetables, and to reiterate the point above, salad is not more virtuous than other foods.

What to do instead

If you don't like salad, get your veggies in:

  • soup

  • stir fries

  • veggie packed casseroles

  • smoothies

  • or simply on the side! 😉

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