Part of my job as a fitness trainer is to help people lose weight. Most people are good at exercising, but when it comes to dieting many people fall short. In order to lose weight, you need the right combination of exercise and proper nutrition.
One type of diet I recommend is the Protein Salad Diet. Instead of a wimpy, rabbit-food salad with nothing but iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and low-fat dressing, the Protein Salad is a heavy salad consisting of greens, protein and fat. This salad is literally so heavy you’ll struggle to eat the whole thing. It has a good combination of leafy greens, fruit, and protein. You can eat this salad all day and get what your body needs to stay healthy while losing weight!
Many of these ingredients are fun and easy to grow!
To start, you’ll need a leafy base. Leafy vegetables are perhaps the easiest vegetables to grow. They sprout quickly and, depending on the variety, can produce a harvest in a matter of weeks. If you stagger the planting times of your veggies, plan on enjoying at least one salad a day for a week.
Since leafy vegetables are cool-weather plants, they grow best in spring and fall. Growing leafy greens during the summer is possible as long as they have plenty of water and a bit of shade. Since leafy greens have a high water content, be sure to water them at least once a day.
Leafy greens include lettuce, spinach, kale, mustard greens, bok choy, Swiss chard, beet leaves.
Salads often combine leafy greens with fruit such as tomato, pepper, and cucumber. If you want to eat Protein Salads regularly, try growing indeterminate grape tomatoes. I once grew more than seventy grape tomatoes on one plant! If you grow cherry or grape tomatoes, keep them well-trimmed so they don’t get out of control.
To make spicy salads, grow hot peppers. I’ve had a success with growing Hungarian wax peppers in my Garden Tower 2™. I planted my hot peppers on the top of the GT2 so I could stake them. Hungarian wax peppers taste mild when green, but hot when red. You could use them to make a Tex-Mex Protein Salad (Recipe below).
Salad fruits include apples, avocados, berries, cucumbers, peppers, oranges, pumpkins, summer squash, and tomatoes.
What better way to reduce high calorie dressings and flavor up your salad than to grow and add your own herbs?
Basil has been one of my most successful herbs, since it grows fast and abundantly. It’s an ideal ingredient to add to a salad if you have a taste for something Italian. We grow so much basil in our Garden Tower, we have to give it away!
Another herb that I’ve successfully grown is cilantro. If you have a taste for something Greek, Italian, or Persian, use cilantro to make a Mediterranean Protein Salad or Persian Salad (Recipe below).
Salad herbs include arugula, basil, cilantro, thyme, oregano.
If a salad has left you hungry, it’s because it lacked fat. Fat will give your salad substance and, believe it or not, signals your brain to make you feel full when a hormone called leptin is released.
You may be thinking, “But fat is bad!” It’s not, however, the fat itself that makes you fat, it’s excessive carbs. I lost twelve pounds in eight days by reducing carbs and increasing fat and protein content in my diet. I didn’t even need to lose any weight! The Protein Salad is naturally low in carbs. It’s perfect for those of you living with diabetes.
Fat sources include cheese; sour cream; full-fat yogurt; olive, avocado, flaxseed, or coconut oils; nuts; seeds; avocados.
Unlike fat, protein doesn’t really make you full. Instead, your body uses it to build and maintain muscle. Protein is one of the main the building blocks of your body. If you were to strip away all the cells in your body, you’d be left with connective blocks called protein.
Protein sources include red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, peas, and quinoa.
How To Make A Protein Salad
This salad is ideal if you want to lose weight and build muscle. The fat and protein will make you feel full and supply you with important vitamins and minerals.
- Start with a base of 1 cup chopped leafy greens – lettuce, kale, chard, bok choy, etc.
- Add protein – 1/2 cup meat, chicken, fish, egg, beans, nuts, or seeds
- Add fruit – 1/2 cup chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, etc.
- Add fat – 1/2 cup oil (olive/avocado/coconut)
- Add toppings such as herbs, sour cream, cheese, etc.
Mix everything together. If the amounts I’ve given are too low, just increase them, especially if you’re a hungry lion!
Protein Salad Recipes
These recipes are only guidelines. Mix up the ingredients however you like!
Tex-Mex Protein Salad – 2 cups chopped Romaine lettuce – 1 cup meat, chicken, shrimp or black beans – 1 cup chopped tomatoes and hot peppers – Alternative: 1 cup of salsa – 1/2 cup sour cream or guacamole – 1/2 cup shredded cheese or rice – 1 handful of crushed tortilla chips
Persian Protein Salad – 2 cups chopped cucumbers – 1 cup meat, chicken, or chickpeas – 1 cup chopped tomatoes and mild or hot peppers – 1 cup feta cheese or olive oil – 1/2 cup parsley or cilantro – 1/4 cup onions or garlic – 1 teaspoon of black pepper
Asian Stir-Fry Protein Salad – 2 cups chopped bok choy – 1 cup steak, chicken, shrimp, or edamame – 1 cup chopped broccoli – 1/2 cup chopped mild or hot peppers – 1/2 cup rice or quinoa – 1 minced clove of garlic – Pinch of salt – 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil (to sauté) – 2 to 3 tablespoons of additional olive oil to use as a dressing – 1 or 2 tablespoons stir-fry sauce of your choice