Last updated: November 11, 2023
We all know salads can be a nutritious and healthy choice for a meal, right? They’re loaded with the nutrients your body needs. Most of us need more salad in our life. Including me. Here’s what I learned from eating salad every day for a month. Hint: Lots of good things!
As a scientist and food nutritionist, I conduct a lot of experiments on myself and this is one of them. The rules were simple. Eat a salad every day for one month. Pasta and potato salads don’t count, as that’s all I would eat if they did.
Eating Salad Every Day for a Month
It turns out, quite a lot happens. I chose to have salads for lunches most of the time, as that’s what I have more control over. Also, I didn’t want to force everyone around me to change their diet too. At least not yet. Eating a salad every day had several positive effects on my health and perspective.
1. Improved digestion
The most noticeable for me was how regular and how much easier my bowels behaved. Seriously, the benefits of getting enough fiber cannot possibly be over-rated as you get older.
Salads typically contain high amounts of dietary fiber, which aids in digestion and promotes regular bowel movements. This by itself is reason enough to eat a salad every day. But wait, there’s more.
2. I ate less of the unhealthy stuff, especially processed foods.
I found myself choosing fewer processed foods. Not just because my mind was geared towards more nutritious choices, but also because the processed foods started tasting… well, more processed.
My pre-challenge lunch had been random, usually convenient and geared more towards filling me up than toward health. A sandwich, maybe, leftovers from the night before or whatever I found in the pantry or freezer. I confess to mac n cheese occasionally, just for the comfort of it all.
Having a meal already planned out was a huge factor in eating fewer preservatives and artificial flavors. Ensuring a variety was part of the plan, so I never got tired of it.
Over time, I stopped enjoying the processed taste of convenience foods and really started appreciating the taste and texture of crisp, clean fruits and vegetables.
3. I had more energy.
This was likely the combined effect of more nutrients and fewer processed foods. Salads are packed with a variety of vegetables, fruits, and sometimes protein sources such as chicken or tofu.
These ingredients provide essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants that contribute to overall health and energy.
I felt the energy in several ways. I had more energy and inspiration to make the salad to begin. At first it was the challenge itself that gave me motivation but after a while I looked forward to the salad and making it became an almost meditative process of a giving myself a gift.
I had more energy in the afternoons, possibly because I was missing my regular spike and drop that comes from eating unbalanced and unhealthy fats, sugars and simple carbs.
And I had more energy throughout the day because I wasn’t feeling weighed down by food I shouldn’t be eating anyway. So there’s that, which for me was huge.
4. My hair grew softer and shinier.
At first I thought it was my imagination. And I’m still not 100% convinced it’s not all in my head.
But my hair is softer and shinier than its’ been in a while and there are studies suggesting that nutrition can have obvious physical consequences such as hair quality and skin tone. Some of this is due to increased water consumption, and some of its due to increased nutrients.
Proper nutrition can have a significant impact on hair quality. Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Biotin, iron, zinc and protein for example, are all important for hair structure, growth and strength. They can be found in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, as well as lean proteins.
5. I felt better, physically and mentally
I felt cleaner. The saying “you are what you eat” has never been more meaningful to me. I was eating clean and wholesome food and I was feeling the same.
Mind you, I wasn’t eating entirely salads all day every day. I was still having regular dinners with my family and while I leaned toward healthier options throughout the rest of the day, my lunches were enough to make me feel better about life, physically and emotionally.
6. I slept better
Another combined effect, possibly the result of feeling better in general but sufficient nutrient intake can play a role in helping you sleep better. Certain nutrients and foods can affect your sleep quality and overall sleep-wake cycle.
Magnesium for instance, plays a role in muscle relaxation and the regulation of neurotransmitters involved in sleep. Good sources of magnesium are leafy greens, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes. Eating magnesium-rich foods might just have a positive influence on sleep.
In addition, maintaining a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrients can help regulate blood sugar levels and prevent spikes and crashes in energy. Stable blood sugar levels throughout the day can contribute to better sleep at night.
7. My taste buds changed for the better.
It wasn’t immediate and at times it wasn’t easy, but I no longer needed creamy dressings on my salads. In fact, I don’t think I even like them that much anymore.
The turnover rate of taste bud cells, also known as taste cell renewal, can vary depending on the specific type of taste bud cell. However, the general estimate for the average turnover of taste bud cells is around 10 days to 2 weeks.
Taste buds consist of different types of cells, including taste receptor cells, supporting cells, and basal cells. Taste receptor cells are responsible for detecting and transmitting taste signals to the brain, while supporting cells provide structural support and maintenance to the taste bud.
The timeframe for taste buds to change can vary from person to person and depends on various factors such as genetics, previous dietary habits, and the specific taste preference being targeted.
Additionally, taste perception can also be influenced by other factors such as sensory adaptation, where repeated exposure to certain tastes can temporarily desensitize taste receptors and alter perception.
This phenomenon is independent of taste bud cell turnover and is related to the processing of taste signals in the brain.
Developing mindful eating habits can also influence taste preferences. By being more aware of your food choices and paying attention to the flavors and sensations while eating, you can develop a greater appreciation for healthier options.
Benefits of eating salad for lunch every day
Eating a salad every day can have several benefits for your health and well-being that aren’t quite so obvious as the ones I noticed. Here are a few of them.
8. Weight management
Salads are generally low in calories while being rich in volume due to their high water and fiber content. Incorporating salads into your meals can help you feel satisfied with fewer calories, potentially aiding in weight management or weight loss efforts.
Many salad ingredients, such as lettuce, cucumber, and tomatoes, have high water content, contributing to your daily fluid intake. Staying hydrated is important for various bodily functions and can support overall health.
10. Reduced risk of disease
Salads provide an easy and delicious way to increase your vegetable intake. Vegetables offer numerous health benefits and are associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including certain types of cancer, heart disease, and obesity.
Tips for success
Making salads interesting and enjoyable is a huge factor in keeping it going. It’s all about creativity and variety. Here are some tips to make your salads more exciting and flavorful:
✅ Instead of sticking to the usual lettuce, try using a mix of different greens like spinach, kale, arugula, or watercress. Each green has its own unique flavor and nutritional profile, which can add depth to your salad.
✅ Include a protein-rich ingredient to make your salad more satisfying and balanced. This could be grilled chicken, salmon, tofu, chickpeas, beans, quinoa, or hard-boiled eggs. Protein not only adds flavor but also helps keep you fuller for longer.
✅ Add a variety of textures to your salad for a more interesting mouthfeel. Consider adding crunchy elements like nuts, seeds, or crispy vegetables like radishes or bell peppers. You can also include creamy elements such as avocado or cheese to provide a contrast in texture.
✅ Don’t limit your salad to just vegetables. Adding fruits like berries, sliced apples, pears, or citrus segments can bring a burst of freshness and natural sweetness. Fruits add a pleasant flavor contrast and make the salad more vibrant.
✅ The dressing can significantly enhance the taste of your salad. Try different homemade or store-bought dressings, such as balsamic vinaigrette or lemon tahini. You can also drizzle some olive oil and vinegar or squeeze fresh citrus juice for a simple, refreshing dressing.
✅ Think beyond the usual toppings and experiment with unique additions. Consider adding roasted vegetables, grilled corn, marinated artichoke hearts, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, pickled onions, or dried fruits. These toppings add extra flavor and complexity to your salad.
✅ Mix in fresh herbs and spices. Fresh herbs like basil, cilantro, mint, or dill can elevate the taste of your salad. Sprinkle them on top or mix them into the dressing for an aromatic twist.
Additionally, adding spices or seasoning blends like cumin, paprika, garlic powder, or chili flakes can provide an extra kick of flavor.
✅ Explore various salad styles to keep things interesting. Experiment with grain-based salads like quinoa or couscous, pasta salads, or even Asian-inspired salads with ingredients like soba noodles, edamame, and sesame dressing.
✅ Presentation can make a difference in how appealing a salad looks. Try arranging the ingredients in an aesthetically pleasing way, use different shapes and sizes, or layer them to create an enticing visual appeal.
Remember, the key is to be open to trying new ingredients, flavors, and combinations. Don’t be afraid to get creative and think outside the box. With endless possibilities, salads can be a delicious and satisfying part of your daily meals.
My favorite salad combinations
Here are a few stand-by favorites that I discovered over the course of 30 days, ones my family has learned to love as well. Adjust all quantities to suit your taste and mood.
- Greek salad: red onion, avocado, grilled chicken, cucumber, roasted corn, fresh lemon juice, olive oil, garlic Viniagrette, dill, oregano, pepper, Kalamata olives, chickpeas, feta cheese, and tomatoes.
- Mexican Cobb salad: olive oil, garlic Viniagrette, chili powder, cumin, pepper, pear, garlic, green onion, black beans, tomatoes, corn and Romaine lettuce.
- Cashew salad: avocado, cucumber, orange or red pepper, apple, grapes, Pepitas, cashews and garlic Vinaigrette.
How to eat healthy at restaurants
Eating healthy at restaurants can be challenging, but you can make nutritious choices with just a few simple strategies.
- Look up the restaurant’s menu online before you go. This allows you to review the options and identify healthier choices in advance, making it easier to stick to your goals once you’re at the restaurant.
- Opt for dishes that feature lean protein sources such as grilled chicken, fish, seafood, or tofu. Avoid fried or breaded options, and ask for any sauces or dressings to be served on the side so that you can control the amount you consume.
- Look for dishes that have a generous serving of vegetables or order a side of steamed or sautéed vegetables. Consider salads or vegetable-based entrees as they can provide essential nutrients and fiber.
- Restaurants often serve larger portions than necessary. Consider sharing an entree with a dining companion or ask for a take-out box at the beginning of the meal and set aside a portion to take home before you start eating.
- Choose dishes that are grilled, baked, steamed, or roasted instead of fried or deep-fried options. These cooking methods typically use less oil and are healthier choices.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications to make your meal healthier. Request items to be prepared with less oil, ask for whole-grain options instead of refined grains, or substitute high-calorie sides with steamed vegetables or a side salad.
- Condiments, dressings, and sauces can be high in calories, unhealthy fats, and added sugars. Choose lighter options such as vinaigrettes, salsa, or mustard instead of creamy dressings or heavy sauces. Use them sparingly or ask for them on the side so that you have control over it.
- Pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues. Eat slowly, savor each bite, and stop eating when you feel comfortably satisfied rather than overly full.
Remember, indulging occasionally is also part of a healthy lifestyle. If you have a craving for something less healthy, enjoy it in moderation and balance it out with healthier choices with your other meals.
Did I lose weight?
No, but I am not currently trying to lose weight. Instead, I’m trying to add good and healthy things to my diet. To my life.
Eating a salad every day can be a part of a weight loss plan, but whether or not it leads to weight loss depends on various factors.
Salads, particularly when prepared with fresh vegetables, leafy greens, and healthy ingredients, tend to be low in calories and high in fiber, making them a fantastic choice for weight management.
Including a salad in your daily meals can help increase your vegetable intake and provide essential nutrients while keeping your calorie intake in check.
Since salads are often voluminous and can promote a feeling of fullness due to the high fiber content, they can help control hunger and reduce the likelihood of overeating during the day.
However, it’s important to note that weight loss is a result of creating a calorie deficit, which means consuming fewer calories than you burn. While eating a salad alone may not guarantee weight loss, it can be a helpful component of a balanced and calorie-controlled diet.
To effectively lose weight by incorporating salads into your daily routine, consider the following:
- Opt for a variety of colorful vegetables, leafy greens, lean proteins, and healthy fats to maximize the nutritional value of your salad while keeping it satisfying.
- Pay attention to the portions of toppings, dressings, and add-ons. While salads can be healthy, excessive amounts of high-calorie ingredients or dressings can hinder weight loss efforts.
- Many store-bought dressings can be high in unhealthy fats, sugars, and calories. Consider making your own dressings using healthier options like olive oil, vinegar, or Greek yogurt, or use them sparingly.
- While salads can be a low-calorie option, it’s important to consider your total calorie intake throughout the day. Ensure that you’re consuming an appropriate amount of calories from all food groups to meet your nutritional needs.
- While eating a salad can contribute to weight loss, combining it with regular physical activity can enhance your overall results. Engage in a combination of cardiovascular exercise and strength training to support weight loss and overall health.
Eating salad every day can be a helpful component of a weight loss or weight management plan, but it’s important to consider the overall context of your diet and lifestyle.
While salads can be low in calories and high in fiber, solely relying on salads may not guarantee weight loss on its own.
Weight loss is a complex process that involves various factors, such as overall calorie intake, macronutrient balance, physical activity, and individual metabolism.
It’s also important to consider the portion sizes and overall energy balance of your meals. Even if you’re eating salads, consuming excessive calories from other sources or overeating can hinder weight loss progress.
Monitoring your overall calorie intake and ensuring you’re in a calorie deficit, in conjunction with a healthy and balanced diet, can be more effective for weight loss than solely relying on salads.
Remember that while salads can be a nutritious and low-calorie option, a well-rounded and balanced diet, along with regular exercise, is crucial for sustainable weight loss.
Wrap-up: Salad Every Day for a Month
I’m delighted with the results of this particular experiment. I felt better for it both physically and emotionally, and have developed a habit I intend to stick with moving forward.
Eating a salad every day can improve your health and overall well-being too. One of the main reasons for this is that the nutritional value salads provide supports optimal functioning for your whole body.
Also, a good salad on a routine basis also has a huge effect on digestion, regular bowel movements, and your overall feeling of satiety. All of this leads to a positive feeling about your health and your choices in life. Give it a try and see for yourself.