An easy way to meet nutrient goals for Americans
Picture a large bowl of cool salad greens, it’s the quintessential diet food. It fills you up without adding calories to your plate but also a versatile canvas for a satisfying meal, a seasonal side and more importantly can significantly contribute nutrients such as fiber, potassium, vitamins and minerals which we need as part of a balanced diet.
Unfortunately, 9 out of 10 Americans fall short when it comes to eating the daily recommendation of 2.5 cups of vegetables. The USDA Dietary Guidelines suggests one way to close the nutrient gap is to focus on variety including dark green vegetables for vitamin K, orange for vitamin A, legumes for fiber and starchy vegetables for potassium. One UCLA study showed salad eaters had 40% higher veggie intake. Another study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics took a closer look at salad eaters, to see if they come closer to meeting nutrient needs when compared to non-salad eaters and this is what they found.
In looking at diets of 9,680 people taking detailed account of everything eaten including all foods and beverages and assigned scores using the Healthy Eating Index (HEI). (This is a ranking from 1-100, 100 being those that have complete compliance with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.) Nearly, 25% of participants reported eating a salad, which the study defined as a variety of vegetables, frequently raw lettuce and in many cases often topped with vegetables including tomatoes, carrot and onion. While total calories, carbohydrates and protein intake was pretty much the same among salad eaters and non, intakes for key nutrients including fiber, vitamins A, B, C, E, K, folate, choline, magnesium, potassium and sodium were all significantly higher in the salad eating group! Diet quality for salad eaters was given an HEI ranking of 56, non-eaters were around 50.
So, if you categorize salad as strictly a low-calorie diet only food – think again! When planning weekly meals, keep salads in the daily rotation as an easy way to help yourself eat healthier. Think about it, your average salad has 1.5 cups greens, and 1 cup of raw vegetable toppings, sometimes more! Make meal prep easy with Dole’s variety of salad greens such as our American Blend which includes carrots, radish and cabbage or make a salad supper super stress-free with one of our salad kits.
Published August 2020