Spice Up Your Salads

spinach saladJuly is National Salad Month and we could not let the month pass without shining the light on this veggie packed dish. It’s hot outside, the days are long, and the last thing you want to do is cook. Salads are great for lunch and dinner, and if made properly, can be a nutrient rich meal.

Most people think that salads are synonymous with the word “healthy.” While this may be true, a salad bar has many different choices, which makes it difficult to navigate. Romaine or iceberg lettuce? Cheese? Ranch or vinaigrette? When you don’t know the answer these questions, it’s easy to choose salad ingredients that are higher in calories and fat and lower in nutrients. Luckily, we have the knowledge and we’re here to help!

Typically, a salad is defined as bowl of lettuce with dressing. This definition, however, can get boring. In reality, a salad is any colorful combination of cold ingredients that excites your taste buds! Follow these 6 simple steps to create your own delicious (and nutritious) salad masterpiece.

  • corn saladStep 1: To lettuce or not to lettuce, that is the question! Not every salad needs lettuce, but if you do decide to include it, consider romaine, spinach, arugula, kale, or other dark, leafy vegetables. These greens are packed with nutrients and provide a good foundation for your healthy creation.
  • Step 2: Color your salad! Choose a variety of vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, olives, peppers, broccoli, squash, mushrooms, artichokes, avocado, hearts of palm, onions, beets, or corn. This should provide the bulk of your meal and the bulk of your nutrients! Be aware that some vegetables, like olives and avocado, have more calories because they contain “good fats.”
  • Step 3: Add a lean protein. Chicken, turkey, salmon, shrimp, tuna, tofu, edamame, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils are all flavorful choices that will help keep you feeling full.
  • Step 4: When you’re feeling adventurous, include fruit! Apples, berries, pears, mandarin oranges, raisins, and dried salad with eggcranberries can add a sweet twist to your salad without added sugar.
  • Step 5: Choose a dressing or dressing alternative. In terms of salad dressings, oil and vinegar, vinaigrettes, and light dressings are usually heart-healthy options. Be cautious though because these sometimes contain hidden sugar and artificial ingredients and can add calories and fat quickly. Check the nutrition facts label, or better yet, make your own! That being said, not every salad needs a dressing. Salsa, guacamole, fresh squeezed lemon, or chopped egg adds enough flavor to substitute for a dressing.
  •  Step 6:Enjoy!

Photo Credit: Rachel Weidt

 

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