For people on a diet or looking to eat better, salads seem to be the go-to lunch or dinner. But this can be problematic for a few reasons. One: If you load up on heavy ingredients like bacon or butter-soaked croutons and drench the lettuce in super creamy dressings, then you could end up eating more calories than a burger. Two: If there’s not enough flavor and fat in the salad, then you’re left hungry and end up eating more later on because you’re unsatisfied. Three: Without variety in types of salads and dressings, they can get boring fast.
What to do? It turns out that salads can actually be filling, creative, and delicious all while helping you achieve a healthier and happier you. To learn how to find a healthy balance between optimal flavor and calories, we turned to the skinny cooking pro, Allison Fishman.
You may have seen Fishman as a co-host on Lifetime’s Cook Yourself Thin or picked up a copy of her new cookbook, You Can Trust a Skinny Cook. Having mastered the realm of low-calorie, quality food, Fishman shares some tips for slimming down salads and other healthy eating tips. Check out what she has to say below and let us know if you have any tricks or recipes of your own!
1. Go for Strong Flavors.
I have an asparagus dish that has strong flavors like Parmesan and anchovies, so you’ll get a big payback using these ingredients. Parmesan is seven calories a teaspoon, which is not a lot, so you’ll get a lot of taste without too many extra calories. This salad dressing has a strong, vivid flavor with an umami taste, so it doesn’t feel like a compromise. There’s also the Carrot-Ginger Dressing recipe in my book that you get in Japanese restaurants, but you never buy it. It’s creamy but it’s only shallots, ginger, and carrots. So I’d say strong flavors, and don’t be afraid to use them in a salad dressing.
2. Use Ingredients That Add Punch and Nutrients, Not Excess Calories
Every time I make a salad, I put in a handful of roasted salted sunflower seeds. Because what do we want out of a crouton? We want crunch, so I know I’m going to get more nutrition out of seeds than buttered bread. This time of year people can add strawberries but we usually want that salty kick and crunchy hit. You don’t want to just say that sunflower seeds are so high in calories and not use them because it’s important to put the treats in there as well.
3. Don’t Skimp on Flavor
For the Caesar salad that it’s my book, I wanted to make it pregnancy friendly, so I used mayo not raw eggs. I made it probably 12 times because I used low-fat mayo, and I’d make it, and be like oh it’s good, but once I tossed it with the lettuce, the flavor totally dissipated. So for that dressing use the higher fat stuff, but don’t drench the leaves, just lightly coat them. I don’t skimp on flavor, you need that. Remember you are using the dressing to coat your lettuce and if you don’t have the fat and the flavor, then you’ll be looking around for something else.
4. It’s What You Put in, Not What You Leave Out.
I think about it in terms of 'how can I get the most salad with the least amount of calories?' So I’m going to use a lot of vegetables. I have a Greek Salad recipe in my book, but I don’t do the traditional shredded iceberg and top it with some dolmades. I do it more Greek style with bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and turn it into more of a chopped salad with a vinaigrette.
Same with pasta: don’t give me a half cup serving, I want a big serving. I want 2 cups, so I add other vegetables like broccoli rabe. Also air is calorie free. So if you can add air in, that’s great, like with ziti. It helps you eat more slowly since each piece takes longer to eat and you fill up in a more relaxed way. We eat with our eyes, so it’s a question of how can we slow them down? With vegetables and lower-calorie items. It’s about what you put in, not what you leave out.