Ever wonder why loading up on salad doesn’t always help you slim down? Despite their rep as a diet standby, salads aren’t synonymous with weight loss. In fact, many of the usual add-ins don’t actually offer much in the way of the lean protein, complex carbs, and monounsaturated fats you need to slim down while maintaining energy and keeping cravings at bay (croutons, we’ve got your number).
With the right fixings, though, salads can be a super filling and flavor-packed way to get all the nutrients you need while dropping pounds. Check out these six tasty, healthy, and diet-friendly topping ideas from nutritionist Brittany Kohn, R.D., of Middleberg Nutrition in New York City:
“These trendy seeds are a great source of satiating protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber,” says Kohn. Also, because they’re slightly sweet, they satisfy your sweet tooth without added sugar. You can add a tablespoon to your salad for a reasonable 40 calories.
Half an avocado (160 calories) is loaded with heart-healthy vitamins, minerals, and fats, says Kohn. Plus, the fruit is so creamy and smooth, it can also function as dressing—so you can subtract the 100 or so calories you’d normally take in from ranch, Italian, or even oil and vinegar.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Using just two tablespoons as part of your salad dressing could contribute to weight loss. “The vinegar may suppress appetite, stimulate the metabolism, and reduce water retention and bloating,” says Kohn. And at five calories a tablespoon, it definitely can’t do any damage.
You’ve heard that the capsaicin in cayenne, jalapeno, and other varieties of spicy peppers can boost metabolism and make you feel more satisfied. They’re not typically thought of as a salad staple, but if you like the hot stuff, Kohn suggests adding a small amount to kick up your bowl of greens.
This bulbous veggie has a strong licorice-like taste, which helps satisfy your palate, says Kohn. Plus, fennel has antimicrobial properties that may even reduce bloating.
They don’t call almonds a superfood for nothing. These nuts offer both protein and healthy fat, so you stay energized and satisfied and will be less tempted by snack attacks. If you’re prepping your salad at home, toast them in the oven for a few minutes to boost their flavor. A handful (about 20 nuts) packs about 130 calories.