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The One Dinner Trick for a Flat Belly, Says Nutritionist

This small tweak to your mealtime routine can have a big impact.
FACT CHECKED BY Kiersten Hickman

When it comes to taking a nod from European cultures, we often look to art and fashion for inspiration. But we might also want to look at some of the habits Europeans apply to eating dinner—and no, this has nothing to do with drinking red wine. (Although that does have some surprising health benefits).

The habit that could help score you the flat belly you desire is having your salad at the end of the dinner (or at least alongside it) instead of at the beginning.

To be clear, multiple factors can help you achieve your flat-belly goal—diet and exercise being the two of the most important. But this one simple dinner trick of swapping the salad starter for a salad ender is about as easy as they come. Here's why you should eat salad after your meal, and for even more healthy eating tips, be sure to check out our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

1

It helps with digestion.

salad
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Salads have high fiber content, which comes with a wide variety of benefits, such as preventing constipation (a flat-belly enemy).

"Having a salad after dinner can be beneficial to the digestive system—the raw vegetables and fiber prime the system for further digestion," says nutritionist Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, and author of Radical Longevity. "Raw vegetables also provide living enzymes—which get killed in the heating process—that act as cofactors for minerals and vitamins, and play a role in all bodily processes, including a key role in digestion."

Get some salad inspiration with these 35+ Healthy Salad Recipes.

2

It can prevent high-cal snacking.

eating salad
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While eating a salad after dinner in France may be to cleanse the palate and boost digestion before the cheese course, that's not why you should do it. Cheese and most desserts have a higher number of calories (with marginal nutrition), which can lead to the accumulation of body fat—including around your belly.

And according to the Global Indulgence Study by Culinary Visions, Americans tend to take in more total calories in a day due to dessert. Substituting desserts and snacks with a healthy salad will reduce these additional, unnecessary calories —you'll be satisfied before you have a chance to hit the sweets. This study showed that increasing the amount of salad eaten (no matter what time of day you eat it) helps to reduce energy (aka caloric) intake.

Speaking of sugar, try This One Trick Will Cut Your Sugar Cravings for Good.

3

Don't blow it on the dressing.

salad dressings in jars
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You haven't come this far to shower your greens in fat and sugar. If you're buying salad dressing from the store, make sure it has no added sugar. If you're making it, feel free to use heart-healthy olive oil in moderation, but use a larger proportion of vinegar.

"Vinegar can help aid in the digestion of the main course by breaking down protein and slowing down the absorption of carbohydrates," says Gittleman.

Here's a cheat-sheet to 10 Healthy Salad Dressing Brands to Buy (and 11 to Avoid). Or make them yourself!

The exact kinds of salads you should eat

salad
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Not all salads are created equal. To achieve your flat-belly goal, you need a healthy salad that is nutrient-dense and has a lower calorific value. This value is generally determined by what you put in the salad. So skip the candied walnuts, dried cranberries, and creamy dressing in favor of these veggies.

Opt for non-starchy vegetables since they are lower in calories and nutrient-dense. Some to try:

  • Cruciferous vegetables: cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts
  • Leafy green vegetables: lettuce, spinach, and collard greens
  • Edible stalks: celery, asparagus

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Asaph Kuria
Drawing on his degrees in nutrition and food safety (B.S, M.S.), Asaph Kuria specializes in writing health and wellness content that explores and explains the connection between food and health. Read more