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5 Tips for Ordering Healthier Soups and Salads

miso soup

If you’re like most people, you struggle to get enough vegetables on a daily basis. Only about 32% of Americans meet the minimum recommendation for vegetables, which is 3 servings daily. That’s a low bar given that nutrition experts recommend up to 9 servings of fruit and vegetables daily.

Squeezing in 5 servings of vegetables daily is already a challenge. Doing so while you eat out is even more difficult since most meals are centered on protein (think: chicken, steak, fish). Technically you should be ordering a veggie side, but even that requires you have some willpower to ditch the fries! A good strategy to ensure you won’t forget those veggies is to start each meal with a small soup or salad.

Soups and salads are great places to sneak in vegetables. In fact, studies have found that people tend to eat less when they start their meal with a soup or salad, which can be helpful for getting to and maintaining a healthy weight. Since not all soups and salads are created equal, we’ve honed in on 5 tips to help you order healthier soups and salads:

1. Pick soups with a clear broth.

They’re lighter and lower in calories than cream-based soups, and they won’t ruin your appetite for the main meal. Tasty options include minestrone, miso soup, chicken noodle and Manhattan chowder. Skip the cream-based soups, and if you’re unsure just ask the server.

2. Favor a vegetable-loaded soup.

A soup is only as good as the ingredients going into it! If you’re ordering soup as a starter, go for one that is full of vegetables. It may be helpful to ask for the vegetarian versions of chilis, chowders and stews.

3. Choose dark and leafy greens as your salad base.

Leafy greens such as kale, spinach and arugula are more nutritious than your typical iceberg lettuce. They have higher levels of vitamins A and C, folate, calcium and iron, and are just as low in calories.

4. Ask for dressing on the side.

Not surprisingly, dressing tends to be a rich source of calories and added fat in your salad. After all, it is mostly made with some kind of oil, mayo, cheese or cream. Having dressing on the side allows you to control how much you end up eating. Keep in mind that having some dressing is important because it helps you absorb fat-soluble vitamins and minerals from your salad.

5. Go for a colorful salad.

Having a colorful mix of vegetables (and fruits) helps you get a good mix of nutrients from your salad. While it’s not a perfect rule, the color of vegetables can be a tip off for which nutrients they are richest in. For example, bright red and orange vegetables (think: tomatoes, carrots) are good sources of vitamin A. If all you’ve got are words on a menu, we encourage you to look for salads that list at least three different types of vegetables.

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