I thought eating a big-ass salad made for the healthiest lunch ever. So I'd meal-prep five salads for the week, pile the veggies into a bowl, add a few more nutritious toppings, and chow down. Salads are supposed to be low in calories — perfect for weight loss. The only problem was, I was actually gaining weight.
How do you gain weight eating veggies, you ask? Well, I thought variety was the key to health, so my bowl was made up of at least 12 different ingredients, none of which were measured. But when I got a food scale, measured out each ingredient, and plugged everything into MyFitnessPal, I almost dropped my salad bowl in disbelief. This was the nutritional breakdown:
|50 grams massaged kale (about 1 cup)||25||5||0||2|
|50 grams cucumber (about 1/4 cup)||8||2||0||.5|
|50 grams carrots (about 4 baby)||20||5||0||0|
|50 grams red bell peppers (about 1/4 cup)||16||3||0||0|
|50 grams yellow bell peppers (about 1/4 cup)||14||3||0||1|
|50 grams celery (about 1 large stalk)||8||2||0||1|
|6 cherry tomatoes||14||0||3||0|
|50 grams red cabbage||16||0||4||1|
|Trader Joe's marinated tofu (1 piece)||160||9||4||16|
|100 grams diced roasted sweet potato (about 3/4 cup)||90||.2||20.8||2|
|1/2 cup cooked quinoa||111||2||20||4|
|1/4 cup chickpeas||65||1||11||4|
|1 tbsp salted sunflower seeds||99||9||4||3|
|2 tbsp Goddess Dressing||120||12||2||2|
I couldn't believe it. 904 calories? And that's not even counting the oil I used to roast the diced sweet potatoes. Or the handful of sunflower seeds I crunched on while measuring a tablespoon for my salad. No wonder I was gaining weight! I was practically eating two meals in one sitting.
I know all the hacks to make a salad healthy, but I was making the mistake of simply putting too much into my bowl. This just proves that eyeballing isn't the best tactic, even if you're eating healthy foods. My lunch was definitely packed with nutritious ingredients, but it was way too packed.
Knowing is half the battle, so now that I knew why I was gaining weight, I could do something about it. I continued to use MyFitnessPal and my food scale, and I just cut some of the ingredients down. In fact, I cut a few out completely. I skipped the quinoa and red pepper, used 1/4 of an avocado, one tablespoon of a lower-calorie dressing, and half the amount of sweet potatoes. I was able to get my salad bowl to just under 500 calories. Since I do intermittent fasting and only eat from noon until 7 p.m. each day, I was happy with this amount.
Learn from my mistake and take this into consideration when meal prepping all your meals and snacks. Measure out your ingredients so you know exactly how much your daily food is adding up to. If you're struggling to lose weight, this could be the one simple thing that pushes the needle!