You can win friends with salad! Nutritionist Theresa Albert shares what goes into a midday meal that will fill you up, keep you going and taste incredible.
People worry that if they switch to salad for lunch, they’ll be hungry later. That’s only true if you’re eating the wrong salad. The biggest mistakes are not eating a big enough salad and not incorporating enough protein and good fats.
There are stretch receptors in our stomachs, and filling you up stimulates those receptors, which signal the brain to turn off the hunger message. If you don’t eat enough, that message doesn’t turn off. You want to load up on high-nutrient, low-calorie foods in your salad, like leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli and peppers, to trigger those stretch receptors. I always have a variety of vegetables and greens—especially cabbage, which is a prebiotic and helps feed good bacteria in the gut—prepped in the fridge as a base for my salad.
Of course, vegetables alone aren’t going to satiate you for long, which is where protein and fats come in. These are the slow-burning fuels that keep you satisfied and sharp throughout the afternoon. It doesn’t matter whether the protein is from a vegan source (like lentils) or from meat or fish, as long as you’re getting a lot—20 to 30 grams. That’s a whole chicken breast, a can of tuna, ½ cup of cooked beans or ¾ cup of tofu. I typically add whatever protein I had for dinner the night before to my greens with some good fats, such as avocado and a sprinkle of nuts and seeds. Then I toss it with a nut oil (always extra-virgin) and fresh lemon or lime juice.
Finally, I’m a big fan of taking appropriate shortcuts, and one of my secrets is taking a multivitamin at lunch. This helps absorb the nutrients from the salad and supplements anything you’re missing.
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