The Salad Diet + Top Ingredients To Make Delicious Healthy Salads

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reviewed by Katelyn Tocci

In general, salads are considered a healthy food, so it is probably not surprising that people sometimes turn to a salad diet for weight loss or eat a lot of salad for weight loss.

But, is salad good for weight loss? What salad diet weight loss results can be expected?

In this guide, we will discuss the salad diet, the best salad diet weight loss ingredients, and whether the 21 day salad diet for weight loss can actually work for you.

We will cover: 

  • What Is the Salad Diet?
  • What Is the Best Salad for Weight Loss?
  • How Much Weight Will I Lose Eating Salad?

Let’s dive in! 

A person smiling eating a salad.

What Is the Salad Diet?

As the name describes, a salad diet is a diet that focuses on eating salads. There isn’t an official “salad diet“ that dictates exactly what you can eat or how long you need to follow it.

Rather, the salad diet is sort of an extreme version of a plant-based diet that emphasizes eating salads. 

This does not mean that you absolutely cannot include other foods when you are following a salad diet plan, but the diet should focus on consuming salads.

Keep in mind that the term “salad“ is quite broad, so what you can eat on the salad diet is likely not as restrictive as you might think.

However, while this flexibility in salad diet food choices offers a lot of benefits, it can also make the salad diet weight loss results not nearly as predictable or significant as you may anticipate.

Therefore, it is virtually impossible to state whether the salad diet is “healthy” or not because you can make a salad with almost any ingredients. 

A salad.

The calories and nutrients provided on one person‘s salad diet meal plan versus another person’s can vary tremendously.

To this end, there isn’t a specific duration that you have to follow the salad diet, but most people who choose to do the salad diet for weight loss go with a 7-day salad diet, 21 day salad diet, or 30 day salad diet for weight loss.

One of the problems with the salad diet for weight loss, in particular, is that most people automatically associate salads with weight loss, thinking that all salads are low in calories and healthy.

However, the truth is that because basically anything can go into a salad, and the salad diet does not dictate what types of salads to eat or even your portion sizes, you can consume tons of calories.

Pasta salad and potato salad made with creamy dressings and mayonnaise are still considered “salads” but can provide hundreds of calories per serving, and many people eat quite a large bowl of either type of high-carb, high-fat salad.

Chicken and avocado salad.

For example, the Ruby Tuesday Backyard BBQ Chicken Salad with Grilled or Crispy Chicken has a whopping 1400 calories, 84 grams of fat, including 20 grams of saturated fat, 4040 mg of sodium, 85 grams of carbohydrates, including 62 grams of sugar, and 71 grams of protein.

The number of calories alone in this salad is equal to the daily caloric needs of smaller women for those trying to lose weight, and this is just a single meal; it’s not an appetizer.

More concerning is the saturated fat and sodium in this salad; the sodium is about twice the recommended daily intake, and the number of grams of saturated fat in this salad exceeds what the American Heart Association recommends.

Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad is even worse in terms of the total calories. One serving of this salad packs in 1560 calories!

So, is salad good for weight loss?

If you eat high-calorie salads on your diet plan, you will not lose weight unless you are still in a caloric deficit (eating fewer calories than burning in a day based on your BMR and activity level).

A salad with avocado, chickpeas, sun dried tomatoes, potatoes and vegetables.

What Is the Best Salad for Weight Loss?

As mentioned, there isn’t a specific salad diet meal plan, but learning how to make a salad for weight loss will certainly be helpful in facilitating your salad diet weight loss goals.

The specific ingredients you choose to include in a weight-loss salad diet will affect the calories, protein, fat, and vitamins and minerals you get.

Ultimately, if you are following a salad diet plan with multiple salads per day, you should vary the types of weight loss salad recipes you use to provide your body with a swath of different nutrients.

Try to eat as much fiber and protein as possible, as these nutrients help you feel full and promote a healthy metabolism.

However, if you are ultimately interested in losing weight by eating salad, you should be mindful of salad toppings and high-calorie salad ingredients like chow mein noodles, breaded chicken or meat, sweetened sauces, high-fat salad dressings, etc.

Here are some of the best ingredients for salad weight-loss diet plans:

Green leafy vegetables.

Leafy Green Vegetables

The foundation of a salad for weight loss should be leafy green vegetables such as spinach, arugula, chopped kale, lettuce, mixed spring greens, beet greens, chard, etc.

Non-Starchy Vegetables

Artichokes, arugula, asparagus, beets, bean sprouts, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, celery, cucumber, dandelion greens, endive, eggplant, fennel, leeks, mushrooms, onions, peppers, radishes, radicchio, scallions, shallots, tomatoes, yellow summer squash, sprouts, zucchini, etc.


Apples, apricots, avocado, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, clementines or orange slices, figs, grapefruit, red and green grapes, melons, lemons, limes, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pears, plums, pomegranate seeds, raspberries, and strawberries.

Smaller Amounts of Tubers and Starchy Vegetables

Turnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, peas, pumpkin, corn, rutabaga, kohlrabi, carrots.

A salad with quinoa.


Lentils, beans (cannellini, lima, fava, green beans, kidney, and navy beans, etc.), peas, chickpeas, and edamame. 

Some Whole Grains

Buckwheat, barley, bulgar, quinoa, whole wheat couscous, brown rice, farro, orzo, freekeh, amaranth, wheat berries, etc.

Nuts and Seeds

Use smaller portions if you are looking for a weight loss salad meal plan.

Almonds, macadamia nuts, sesame seeds, pistachios, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, cashews, flaxseeds, pine nuts, peanuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, squash seeds, etc.

Healthy Fats

Olives, olive oil, avocados, coconut meat (unsweetened)

A salad full of protein.

Herbs and Spices

Basil, crushed red pepper, cilantro, oregano, dill, chives, mint, garlic, parsley, cinnamon, black and white pepper, thyme, sage, etc.

Lean Protein

Chicken breast, turkey breast, hard-boiled eggs, tofu, tempeh, seitan, lean steak strips, salmon, tuna, shrimp, and scallops.


Go light for salads for weight loss.

Feta cheese, goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, part-skim mozzarella, gorgonzola, Parmesan, blue cheese, etc.

Acids for Low-Calorie Salad Dressings

Lemon juice, lime juice, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar.

A salad.

Other Salad Toppings

Fresh salsa, banana peppers, artichoke hearts.

In addition to the best salad diet weight loss recipe ingredients, it’s helpful to think about the worst salad ingredients.

Avoid these on a salad diet plan:

  • Bacon, sausage, pepperoni, processed meats, deli meat, fried or breaded meat, etc.
  • Croutons, French onions, Chinese crunchy noodle toppings
  • Creamy salad dressings commercially prepared with lots of sodium and processed fats

How Much Weight Will I Lose Eating Salad?

As mentioned, salad diet weight loss results will hinge entirely upon what your salad diet plan looks like relative to your caloric expenditure.

A vegetable salad.

If your salad meal plan puts you in a caloric deficit—such that you are burning more calories than the salad diet plan provides—you will lose weight.

Although your specific caloric needs will depend on your body size and activity level, a good starting place is the 2020-2025 United States Dietary Guidelines

According to these recommendations, adult men should consume a minimum of 2,200–2,400 calories, while adult females should consume at least 1,600–1,800 calories per day to meet nutritional needs for health.

Even though you do need to be in a caloric deficit to lose weight, you don’t want your salad diet plan calories to be too low; short-term, rapid weight loss, like in extreme diets, is unsustainable and can cause a range of health risks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, healthy fat loss should not exceed 1-2 pounds per week for most people.

It takes a caloric deficit of 3,500 calories to lose one pound, so you should not be cutting calories by more than 500-1000 calories per day (and you can also increase physical activity, which would mean you’d need to cut even fewer calories). 

Check out some of our top diet guides to find a healthy, sustainable weight loss diet that works well for you.

A salad with grains and vegetables.
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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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