Reader Question: Fasting Salad Recipes
Devoted reader Bertie recently commented on my 5-2 fasting post:
Those salads look delicious! Could you post the recipes?
When I first started making calorie-conscious salads, I was careful to write down all the ingredients and track all the calories. I posted my first set of recipes here. Now that I have more experience making salads, I have found that there is really no need for recipes!
So, below is my non-recipe “formula” to building a low-calorie salad, using as an example, the salad I ate yesterday for my fast day.
Step One: Greens
Salad greens are almost no calorie. They are like the diet soda of foods. A generous bowl of salad greens is only about 30 calories. There is no need to measure your salad greens. Even if you go a bit over, you are probably only talking about 10 calories. You could eat a gigantic bag of salad greens for 100 calories. Dump a big amount of salad greens in your bowl, however many you like. Another trick here is to consider cutting up your greens into small pieces. I don’t know why this makes a taste difference but it does. My husband and I did not like eating kale of any kind until I learned to grab a handful of greens and slice them with a knife. Subway restaurants use this trick in their “chopped salads” and Diamond Dallas Page suggests it in his yoga recipes guide.
Step Two: Determine Your Cravings
When you are dieting or fasting, everything, even vegetables, will become a cravable food. Look in your fridge or pantry and determine what you are craving at that moment. Nuts? Cheese? Meat? Sweet-stuff like apples or dried apricots? Most cravable foods are relatively high calorie per serving. Determine how many calories you need to budget for your craving and build the rest of the salad accordingly.
Step Three: Additional Vegetables
I usually add at least one more vegetable to my salad greens. It might be carrots, green pepper, tomatoes, cucumber, grated zucchini or asparagus. Add these on to the salad. After you have counted calories on these a few times you will learn that most vegetables are essentially calorie-free but a few, like tomatoes, corn and onions, you have to learn how much you can afford to have for your particular calorie budget.
Step Four: Dressing
One of the highest calorie components in a salad is the dressing. Many salad dressings can be 100 calories or more per tablespoon. You should always measure your salad dressing carefully so you learn how much a tablespoon is. Depending on what else you are putting in the salad (cheese, olives), you might be able to get away without adding any dressing. I usually put the dressing on right on the greens where I need the flavor the most. For my salad, I did a variation of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Miso Balsamic dressing. With 1 tablespoon yellow miso and 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, I made a dressing for 40 calories.
Step Five: Cravings
Next, it is time to add the cravable higher calorie foods. For me, this is usually a lean protein like chicken, turkey, salmon or shrimp. Sometimes it is beans or avocado. Sliced hard boiled egg is another good ingredient at this stage. One egg is about 80 calories, which means you can have quite a few.
Step Six: Cheese
Cheese is a wonderful ingredient to make a salad feel richer and taste better but it is also another of those salad ingredients that you have to watch carefully for calories. Most cheeses list their calorie counts by weight so using a kitchen scale to measure your cheese is a good idea. Once you see how small one ounce of cheese is, it will entice you to buy extremely flavorful cheeses so that you get more bang for your calories.
That’s about it!
At first, the calorie counting takes time and drives you crazy. After you have calorie counted several times you start to get a feel for how many calories are in something and you can get looser with your measurements.
Do you have your own formulas for calorie counting or salads? Please share in the comments.
*In my next post, responding to a reader comment on anorexia vs. dieting.