Build A Better Salad

When you think of salad, do you have visions of boring, simple, raw veggies? I’m here to tell you, that doesn’t have to be the case. By changing the variety of lettuce, vegetables, toppings and dressings, the combinations are endless. It’s time to set aside your basic garden salad and build a better, more nutritious one.

Eating salad everyday is one of the healthiest habits you can adopt and is a super-convenient way to work in a serving or two of vegetables. High in fiber and nutrients and low in calories, salad provides you with powerful antioxidants. The darker the greens, the more nutritious! Studies have shown that people who eat more plant foods, such as salads, have lower rates of heart disease and cancer. Raw vegetable consumption is one of our strongest defenses against cancer over any other food. Just watch the high fat and/or processed dressings!

Things you’ll want to consider when assembling your salad: the type of lettuce, vegetables and/or fruit, grains and/or beans, cheese, protein and crunchy topping you will chose. My rule of thumb for a quick throw together salad, is to chose at least three of these options in addition to your lettuce. For example: lettuce, fruit, cheese and a crunchy topping or lettuce, veggies, cheese and protein (like chicken). If you want a really hearty meal, go ahead and add something from each group-- you’ll feel like you’re at a salad bar!

Things like ready-to-go grape tomatoes and shredded carrots are great to have on hand and they're practically calorie-free.

No chopping required!

Here are some options from the different categories you’ll want to think about when you shop for your salad ingredients.

Lettuce: Romaine, red leaf lettuce, spinach, arugula, mixed baby greens, mesclun, bibb, iceberg

Fruit: strawberries, blackberries, pear, apple, watermelon, cantaloupe, dried cranberries, apricots, avocado

Veggies: carrots, grape tomatoes, onions, beets, cucumber, bell peppers, red onion, asparagus, canned artichokes, radishes

Grains: pasta, couscous, brown rice salad, quinoa

Beans: black beans, garbanzo beans, edamame, falafel

Cheese: feta, shaved parmesan, goat cheese, brie, cheddar, cotija, queso fresco, blue cheese, gorgonzola

Protein: shrimp, chicken, steak, ham, turkey, tuna salad, falafel, hard-boiled egg, fish, tofu

Crunchy toppings: nuts, tortilla chips, sunflower seeds, croutons, dried chow main noodles

Salty condiments: capers, pickled okra, sweet cherry peppers, giardiana, olives, hearts of palm

You can choose something from a few of the groups and change up the combinations whenever you feel like something different. Also, experiment with different dressings which will alter the flavors of the salad. For a healthier salad, chose lean, grilled protein options over fried ones. Use high fat add-ins in moderation (i.e. cheese, chips, nuts). Limit your use of processed, full fat salad dressing and instead opt for good ol’ olive oil and vinegar (red wine or balsamic are good choices).

Need some inspiration? Here are some tasty combinations to get you started.

Greek Salad: romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper, feta and greek olives

California Club Salad: bibb lettuce, turkey, avocado, crumbled bacon and toasted walnuts

Asian-Inspired Salad: mixed greens, edamame, mandarin oranges, sliced almonds and crunchy chow main noodles

Nuts and Berries Salad: spinach, red onion, blackberries, candied pecans and goat cheese

Southwestern Salad: romaine, tomatoes, red onions, corn, black beans and cheddar cheese

Mediterranean-Inspired Salad:  mixed greens, bell pepper, cucumber, falafel, tzatziki sauce

As you can see, with so many options, you’ll never grow tired of salad. Feel free to experiment with interesting combinations. If you are unsure about what dressing to pair with your choices, you can’t go wrong with fresh lemon juice, oil and vinegar. This will help keep the sodium down and processed ingredients out of the picture. Enjoy your healthier, better salad creations!

Post a Comment