Why Do I Still Feel Hungry After Eating a Salad?

Salad, salad, salad. It’s the colorful, waving banner of the fit and fabulous. Search for healthy lunch recipes on Pinterest and a bright and cheery salad will show up a million times, bursting with red peppers, nuts and beets to boot.

Salads are the very first thing most people turn to when they want to make a change and lose some weight. It’s the sort of meal that most of us wish we wanted; but in reality, salad usually feels like the sad preamble to what we really want to eat for lunch. It sounds good (theoretically), but within half an hour we are hungry again and most likely a little bit bitter toward the greens that tricked us.

“Why is this? How come I’m still hungry?”

Truth is, salad is just misunderstood. We’ve been assuming that limp pile of iceberg with a tomato or two is enough to keep us going strong. In reality, most of us are missing a whole world of delicious toppings and alternative proteins that will take that salad from feeling force-fed and unfulfilling to all the joy it claims to be.

Most dieters believe that in order to lose weight they need to cut calories to the point of relative starvation. And while it’s true that the secret to losing weight is balancing high-quality, nourishing calorie intake with increased activity, starving yourself to skinny is not the same thing. Cutting down to the bare minimum calories (say, that iceberg lettuce and a tomato) really just suppresses your metabolism, making it even more difficult to lose what you want to lose.

The other issue comes when you don’t include enough protein or healthy fats in the salads you make. If your salad is all veggies, odds are you’re getting some fantastic vitamins and fiber in your system, but not enough core proteins to keep you going till dinner. This doesn’t just mean meats. Excellent, lasting proteins and good fats can be found in eggs, nuts, legumes, avocado and maybe a bit of cheese.

If you’re switching from calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods to large piles of vegetables, you will quickly realize that it takes a lot more of them to make you feel as full. But it is possible, if you follow these tips—increasing the proteins you consume alongside those leafy greens that help banish your cravings.

Here are some suggestions to make your next salad more satisfying. Seriously, it’s possible:

1) Add in enough healthy protein. Think chicken, strips of salmon, eggs, kidney beans, soy. Almonds, avocado, black beans and even chia seeds! Do a little research to find some combos that really make your tastebuds happy.

2) Include good fats to sustain you. Avocado (again), olives, olive oil…these are all great starts. These good fats will help you feel fuller for a longer period of time and help keep your blood sugar in check so you don’t hit that mid-afternoon slump.

3) Use a base of greens that has some real kick. Don’t settle for iceberg. Try mixing it up a bit and integrate greens like arugula, kale, baby spinach, swiss chard or watercress!

4) Try to pair your salad with a complex, whole grain carbohydrate as a side. If you’re actively trying to lose weight, watch this part carefully, but don’t be afraid to have something alongside your salad. Whole grain crackers, a bit of baguette, or maybe some pita will go a long way.

5) Allow yourself a snack for goodness sake. Most meals won’t last you six hours, regardless. If you reach mid-afternoon feeling hungry, give yourself a boost with a healthy snack. Great options are roasted almonds, a few spears of pineapple, or maybe some peanut butter toast.