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Fill up on salad to help cut down on calories

To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories. But that can be hard when your stomach is rumbling for more. A new study suggests a way to eat fewer calories without going hungry: start meals with a low-cal salad.

Dressing and other toppings add up
Researchers provided lunch to 42 women ages 19 to 45 once a week for seven weeks. Before the pasta entrée, some of the women were served a salad. Others received no first course.

The basic ingredients were the same for all of the salads: lettuce, carrots, cherry tomatoes, celery, cucumber, Italian dressing and shredded cheese. But some of the salads had more calories and fat grams because of the type and amount of dressing and cheese used.

Low-calorie salads (50 calories per 1½ cups) contained fat-free dressing and low-fat cheese. High-calorie salads (200 calories per 1½ cups) used regular dressing and regular cheese.

Women who ate 1½ cups of the low-calorie salad ate 7 percent less of their pasta entrée than women who ate no salad at all. Even more calories (12 percent) were cut when women ate 3 cups of low-calorie salad.

One possible reason: The women felt full from the salad and didn’t eat as much pasta.

But high-calorie salad eaters ended up eating more of the pasta entrée than if they’d skipped the salad. Calorie intake went up 17 percent for women who ate 3 cups of high-calorie salad compared to non-salad eaters.

Build a healthy salad
The researchers say a first-course, low-cal salad could be a good way to maintain a healthy weight. It’s also a great way to get the recommended three to five servings of vegetables a day.

To build a low-calorie, healthy salad, follow these directions:

  • Start with a healthy base of vegetables, such as lettuce, spinach, carrots, cauliflower, peppers, onions, celery and broccoli.
  • Limit the calories from dressing, cheese, croutons and other salad toppings to about 100 calories.
  • Choose reduced-fat or low-fat versions of dressings.

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