Shop-bought salad boxes are a nu­tri­tional desert. Al­low us to un­pack why sand­wiches are your true fat-loss friend THE DEVIL’S AD­VO­CATE

Men's Health (UK) - - Contents - THIS MONTH’S AD­VO­CATE

Good news: salad is far from the smart way to chew through ex­cess weight

Ev­ery year, the di­etary sea change that oc­curs on the first day of Jan­uary hits us hard. Gone are the cham­pagne and (de­li­cious) bat­tered fin­ger food of New Year’s Eve, re­placed by joy­less fizzy wa­ter and, in­evitably, salad. Ac­cord­ing to a 2017 UK poll, two of our most com­monly cited res­o­lu­tions are to lose weight (33%) and to eat more healthily (32%). Yet re­search con­ducted by US News es­ti­mated that 80% of us will abon­don these am­bi­tions by the sec­ond week of Fe­bru­ary. Coun­ter­in­tu­itive though it may seem, I pin much of the blame for this on limp meal-deal sal­ads. Re­searchers Charles Ben­brook and Don­ald Davis de­vel­oped a Nu­tri­tional Qual­ity In­dex (NQI) to rate foods based on the nu­tri­ent pay­load of each por­tion. Four of the five low­est-rank­ing veg­eta­bles are salad in­gre­di­ents: cu­cum­bers, radishes, ice­berg let­tuce and cel­ery 1 . At nearly 97% wa­ter each, you’d do just as well to savour a glass of eau de tap. Re­move these nutri­tion­ally void in­gre­di­ents and a Cae­sar salad be­comes a small por­tion of creamy chicken topped with cheese and fried bread. It’s high calo­rie, high salt and sates your hunger for about 10 min­utes. No won­der so many throw in the nap­kin.

Sal­ads per­pet­u­ate what sci­en­tists re­fer to as the “health halo” ef­fect – a men­tal trick that sur­rep­ti­tiously sab­o­tages your weight-loss goals. For ex­am­ple, re­searchers at Cor­nell Univer­sity found that peo­ple who opted for low-fat foods over reg­u­lar va­ri­eties ended up eat­ing around 90 more calo­ries than those who snacked as nor­mal. Mean­while, a Univer­sity of Chicago study found that eat­ing foods la­belled as “healthy” – as is com­mon­place on ev­ery su­per­mar­ket salad aisle – only makes you hun­grier 2 With no change to the in­gre­di­ents, the vir­tu­ous moniker dupes your brain into feel­ing less full. What’s more, la­belling the same foods as “tasty” re­duced the num­ber of calo­ries test sub­jects con­sumed later that day. A seem­ingly sen­si­ble choice can send you calo­rie crazy, ba­si­cally.

Sal­ads are also a rou­tine ve­hi­cle for an­other well-trod­den and in­ef­fec­tive weight-loss strat­egy: cut­ting carbs – one of my least favourite. There’s more to trans­form­ing your body at this time of year than the foods you eat, and if you’re try­ing to in­crease the amount of ex­er­cise you do, then carbs are ab­so­lutely your friend. With­out glu­cose to burn, your en­ergy lev­els will plum­met and the ef­fi­cacy of your work­outs will suf­fer. More­over, your fam­ished body will turn to pre­cious amino acids for en­ergy and cause your me­tab­o­lism to stall, mean­ing you’ll burn fewer calo­ries more slowly. You need carbs for fat loss 3 . In a Cell Me­tab­o­lism

study, over­weight adults on a carb-based diet lost more body fat than those who ate equal calo­ries on a carb-free, and pre­sum­ably bleak, eat­ing plan.

How­ever, just be­cause many shops be­lieve that a salad should con­sist purely of let­tuce, cu­cum­ber and a to­ken to­mato, that doesn’t mean you have to. Sal­ads can be in­ter­est­ing yet still healthy and weight-loss-friendly – just think of them as an­other way to as­sem­ble the food you’re plan­ning to eat. That said, you could sim­ply com­bine your healthy pro­teins and veg­eta­bles be­tween two slices of bread, which would take care of your en­er­gis­ing carbs, too. Peo­ple for­get about the sand­wich but, con­structed at home, it can be as healthy a meal as any. Plus, it’s tasty, which means it’s sci­en­tif­i­cally proven to make stick­ing to your new eat­ing plan easy. Avo­cado, spinach and bacon are a good start. I pre­fer mine crispy, thanks.

“Eat­ing food that has been la­belled ‘healthy’ can ac­tu­ally make you hun­grier”


Su­per in­flu­encer Dr Hazel Wal­lace is the au­thor of The Food Medic for Life @the­foodmedic

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