There are 2 common misconceptions about salads:
1. Salads are for vegetarians or vegans,
2. Salads are for the "diet" days.
Actually, this is exactly what my hubby thought about salads…until he met me! Now our favorite Saturday evenings are spent together (kids at Grandma’s house) with our big salad bowl and Netflix! I also use this type of salad on busy week nights when I have no dinner plans and can build it in less than 30 mins.
Even my 4 year old asks for salad most days in the week and she knows exactly how to prepare it and how to make the dressing!
Eating salad is a great way to pack lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, enzymes, and fiber into your diet.
However, not all salads are created equal. Salads go wrong when you add processed store-bought dressing, processed or fried meats, iceberg lettuce, just to name just a few.
As mentioned above, salads that have too few calories can leave you hungry. Often when people decide to “eat healthy” and have a salad consisting of lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and lemon juice, they end up hungrier than before, leading them to binge on cookies later.
Here’s my favorite 7 step formula for creating salad bowls that are flavorful, nourishing, and satisfying.
A bit of time is invested in washing and chopping but there is no right or wrong way to create your salad bowl!
Start with a nutrient-rich foundation. Throw in a few handfuls of leafy greens. Dark greens super-charge your salad and have less than 20 calories per 2 cups, so load it up! I like to buy several large bags of pre-washed organic power greens from Costco. They’re inexpensive and quick to use not only for salads, but also tossed in smoothies and other dishes.
Add greens: romaine, spinach, kale, arugula, chard, etc.
TIP: Avoid using iceberg lettuce as it contains almost no nutrition and can be difficult to digest.
Take advantage of fresh vegetables of all variety. Think color, texture, flavor. They’re low calorie, full of antioxidants and packed full of fiber. Fiber from veggies helps create a steadier supply of energy over a longer period of time. Plus it’s an easy to way to get a few more servings of vegetables in.
Add raw veggies: tomatoes, cucumbers, grated carrots, zucchini noodles, bell peppers, red onion, grated beetroot (marinated in lemon juice), sugar snap peas, broccoli, etc.
TIP: If you experience bloating from eating raw veggies, cook them slightly to help ease digestion.
Your salad becomes a meal when you add the protein. If you’re vegetarian or want added fiber, choose 3/4 cup of plant-based proteins like beans or legumes.
Add a protein: grilled chicken, wild salmon, lentils, black beans, chick peas, eggs, etc.
TIP: Stay away from processed meats like bacon, salami, ham or meat fried in oil or heavy sauce. Always soak your beans and legumes the night before cooking them.
Did you know that healthy fat is an essential part of any salad because it allows nutrients in your greens and veggies to be absorbs better. Carotenoids - a class of nutrient that includes lutein, lycopene, beta-carotene and zeaxanthin - is fat soluble and can’t be absorbed by the body unless it’s delivered with some fat.
Add a healthy fat: avocado, mediterranean olives, feta cheese, or parmigiano-reggiano.
TIP: Low fat diets are linked to nutrient deficiencies. Did you know that vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble vitamins as require a source of dietary fat to be absorbed and used by the body.
Seeds and nuts are a source of protein, fat and fiber, the 3 essentials the body needs. They also add an appealing crunch and buttery flavor. They're high in calories, so measure your portion before sprinkling on, (1 tablespoon is a good amount for your salad).
Add seeds or nuts: pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc.
TIP: Always avoid peanuts! One of the most concerning toxins associated with peanuts is a mold that produces aflatoxin. Aflatoxin is a known carcinogen associated with liver cancer and can stunt growth in children.
Salad dressings are super easy to make at home, and once you do, you’ll never go back - trust me! Not only will it save you tons of cash (the markup on bottled salad dressings is CRAZY and you can make a bottle at home for pennies), but you can completely control the ingredients avoiding added sugar, unhealthy oils, artificial colors, flavors, and unnecessary calories.
Toss with homemade dressing of your choice
TIP: Check out my 7 favorite homemade salad dressings.
Be generous with herbs and spices! Many natural herbs and spices enhance satiety, flavor and aroma of food. Plus they contain numerous potent health benefits such as aiding in digestion, assisting with detox, calming sunburns, also reducing headaches, stress, anxiety, inflammation, coughs, colds, and more.
Add herbs & spices: basil, cilantro, oregano, parsley, rosemary, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, and cayenne pepper.
TIP: Most herbs and spices have been sitting on a grocery store shelf or in your cupboard for a long time, and thus they don’t have much nutritional value left. I recommend growing them yourself whenever possible, but if you can’t, always purchase high quality organic ones.