Salads: The Myths

Have you ever noticed how many times people begin weight loss attempts by eating salads? How successful are they?

If you look over the calorie counts of the salads in most restaurants, you may be astonished at how many calories they really contain. The Apple-Walnut-Chicken salad at Applebee’s is 1160 calories. The Chicken Club salad from Arby’s is 810 calories. The Caesar salad with chicken at Chili’s is 1010 calories. Compare those to a quarter pounder from McDonald’s (410 calories) and you can see how easily people are fooled into ordering a tasty salad that contains a lot of calories, and a lot of fat.

The nutritional value of lettuce is low, in fact, almost nothing. The bulk and fiber value of lettuce is also low. So what is the problem with salads? The dressings in salads are the problem. Many salad dressings containing over 100 calories per tablespoon- and few people ever use a single tablespoon of dressing in their salad. Even the low-fat dressings contain a lot of calories.

More insidious are the emulsifiers used in salads that have been associated with metabolic syndrome in mice. Not that mice are people- but… The Food Additive That May Be Causing Obesity was a blog I wrote about this

We see this with our weight loss surgery patients. They eat a lot of salads, and once they give up their salads and begin to eat more cooked vegetables, they begin to lose weight. Vegetables contain more fiber, more nutrients, and when cooked, more nutrients are absorbed by the body then when consumed raw.

So if you are serious about weight loss increase your vegetables and give up the salads. Salads can be the enemy of your weight loss.

The references below come from our soon to be released cookbook, which includes a large reference section. Hope you find them helpful…

Salads are the enemy for patients wanting weight loss mainly because of the dressings used in the salads, and the high calorie count found in many of the salads. Most of my weight loss surgery patients will tell me, “I love salads,” – and what they love are less the vegetables, and more the use of vegetables as a vehicle to carry Ranch dressing. Check the average calorie count for salads in restaurants. But there is a good side to this. It appears that adding a bit of fat to the vegetables increases consumptions of carotenoids. By adding a minimal amount of fat, it makes these more “bioavailable” to eat.
J Nutr 2000
Pub Med ID 10702576

Carotenoids are responsible for the red, orange, and yellow colors of many vegetables. They have received a lot of attention in the scientific community because people with diets rich in carotenoids have less cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other degenerative diseases (key again- a diet rich in them, not supplements ). When looking at food, if your plate has more color, it is probably healthier – and the more it looks just brown, the less healthy it is thought to be (we call this the eye spectrometer view of food). These carotenoids can only be absorbed with mixed with fat in the intestine.
Front Physiol 2012
Pub Med ID 22934067

Dr. Terry Simpson About Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and went to medical school. Dr. Simpson, a weight loss surgeon is an advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he believes teaching people to improve their health through their food and in their kitchen. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcolm Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska and in 2013 Dr Simpson won the National Indian Health Board Area Impact Award. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit

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Latest Comments

  1. Lynn says:

    I always thought that romaine, spinach, and kale were nutritious if eaten with low fat dressings. Personally the only time that I have had kale was recently in a smoothie that I bought at a kosher juice bar. I could not detect it; probably because of the quality of the machine making the drink. From what you are saying about caratenoids, chicken soup would be healthier than plain carrots.

  2. Desiree says:

    We are big salad eaters and we use the following salad dressing – 1 cup rice vinegar, 1/2 cup soy sauce and 1 tsp sesame oil. (you can add some slices ginger or garlic and a pinch of sugar to jazz it up).
    It is quite salty so we only use about 1 tbsp per family salad. It must be Japanese rice vinegar, though.

  3. tw says:

    its the mayo in the dressing thats the main culpret. it can be switched for yoghurt if making your own dressing.

  4. thedoc says:

    Salad dressings are based often on fats – and the point of the article being, that salads, in general have little nutritional value. When you go out to eat the calorie counts of salads are far higher than the calorie count of most other items on the menu. One can always make better food than one finds made for you. And that – that is the point

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