I eat salads for lunch frequently, especially in the heat of summer. No, it is not because I am watching my weight. It’s because I love volume when it comes to meals. I have long been a fan of volumetrics, a concept by Barbara Rolls, PhD, outlined in her book The Volumetrics Eating Plan.
The basis of this plan is to pump up your meal’s size using low-calorie, low-fat foods. Rolls uses the term low density foods, meaning you can get a large portion of these foods for little calories and fat. Examples of low density foods include veggies, non-fat milk, broths, and fruits. High density foods, such as ice cream or cookies, are foods high in calories and fat (mostly saturated fat) in a small portion size. You can get more “bang for your buck” with low density foods.
An example of supersizing your food the volumetrics way is the salad I made myself for lunch yesterday, pictured below:
This is not just a bunch of boring veggies in a plate. It’s chock full of mixed greens, carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, three bean salad, two whole eggs, corn and topped with Newman’s Own Lighten Up Honey Mustard dressing. I could have used the two eggs to make myself an egg salad sandwich. But a sandwich would take up a lot less space on my plate for close to the same amount of calories as this salad. I was in the mood for volume, so I added in a bunch of veggies for virtually little extra calories. I still had room for two Wasa crackers with hummus without going overboard on calories.
On the flip side, there are many ways to make a high density salad, or a salad high in calories and fat. This can defeat the purpose of opting for a lighter meal. An example would be many of the salads served at restaurants with items such as cheese, tortilla strips, fried chicken strips, full-fat dressings, dried fruit, and candied nuts.
Here are some ways I do up my salads. Always include a balance of complex carbohydrates (starch), low fat and lean protein in a salad. A salad with just veggies will not keep a grumbling tummy satisfied for very long. Lean protein and some healthy fat, as in avocado or low-fat cheese, will help that salad keep you full longer.
Try these great lean protein and healthy fat add-ins to your salad veggies:
- Frozen veggie burger – My favorite is Morningstar Farm’s Zesty Tomato Basil burger.
- 1/2 cup of beans – black, kidney, chick peas… the possibilities are endless. Pop open a can and rinse them off before adding to your salad. Store the rest for another day or to make rice and beans for dinner.
- Eggs – use two whole eggs or one whole egg with two to three egg whites.
- Chicken or “veggie” sausage – nuke or cook up in a pan. Be careful to stick with chicken or veggie sausages that are approximately 150 calories or less. My favorite brands include Morningstar Farm’s Maple Flavored Veggie Pattie and any of the Al Fresco brand chicken sausages (roasted garlic, spinach & feta, and sweet apple are amazingly tasty).
- Tuna – chunk light has a lower mercury content than solid white tuna. Mix in 1-2 TBSP raisins for some added sweetness.
- Packaged salmon – mix into your salad with 2 tsp light mayo and some Dijon mustard.
- Dinner leftovers – do you have leftover chicken, turkey loaf, fish or other lean meat from the night before? Pop them into your salad!
- Cheese – If cheese is your main source of protein in the salad, go for a 1/2 cup of a low-fat shredded cheese. If it’s an addition to another protein, try using a 1/4 cup of low-fat shredded cheese instead.
- ~1/2 cup or 3 oz sliced avocado
Salads are a great way to supersize your lunch or dinner, volumetrics-style. Stay tuned for more of my meal volumizing ideas in the future!