Let’s talk about salads. They can be a great side dish, or even a meal. They can also be super healthy, or pretty unhealthy depending on what you are putting in them.
Quiz: Is your salad mostly pale looking? Does it contain pre-packaged ingredients? Are there more ingredients from the dairy/meat category than veggie category? Do you slather on ranch dressing in an attempt to mask the flavors of the vegetables?
If you answered yes to any of these, you might benefit from a salad makeover.
Salads can be a great source of so many nutrients, and an easy way to get several servings of veggies. If you think you don’t like salads, try something different! There are so many greens and veggies to put in a salad, I promise there is one you will enjoy eating.
So here are 5 ways to build a healthier salad:
1. Choose some greens (green being the key word). Try different dark, leafy greens like arugula, spinach, chard, or kale. (Iceberg lettuce doesn’t taste like anything, so of course it doesn’t taste good.) Some greens can have mild flavors, and others like arugula can have pretty strong flavors, so just experiment and see what you like.
2. Add some colorful veggies of your choice: tomatoes, avocado, bell peppers, mushrooms, green onion, red onion, cucumber, broccoli etc. Mix it up, and try different combinations, so you don’t get bored.
3. Add some crunch. No, not croutons, which are full of fat, sodium, and other junk you don’t need. If you like the texture of something crunchy in your salad, try adding toasted nuts or seeds, like pumpkin or sunflower. You can also add garbanzo beans, which get a nice crunch if you bake them in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Plus, nuts, seeds, and beans are all a good source of protein, which croutons are definitely not.
4. Skip the cheese. Unless you are vegan (and therefore not eating cheese), most of us consume plenty of cheese and dairy from other sources. It’s super easy to fill up a salad with other yummy ingredients, so just forgo the cheese. I promise you won’t even miss it.
5. Make your own dressing! Yes– it’s super easy, and way healthier for you. Any store-bought dressing is going to be filled with extra sugar, sodium and preservatives that your body doesn’t need. All you need to make your own is a little oil, a little vinegar and you are good to go! Plus it actually tastes way better, and brings out the fresh flavors of the salad, instead of just covering them up. You might find that you actually like the taste of your salads!
Here is a basic recipe to get you started. After you start making your own, you will never want to buy dressing again!
Basic Salad Dressing Recipe:
fresh lemon juice, honey, dijon mustard, fresh minced garlic, garlic powder, paprika, herbs (fresh or dried), any other spices, juices or flavors you can think of!
1. Pick your oil and vinegar. My favorite combo is extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, but you can get creative. You can use sunflower, flaxseed, or canola oils, to name a few. For vinegar you could use white or red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or even rice vinegar. Olive oils and balsamic also come in a variety of flavors, which can be fun to experiment with- sometimes I use basil olive oil and fig balsamic- yum!
2. The basic ratio for making salad dressing is 3:1, or 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. You are free to adjust this to fit your tastes, and it might depend slightly on the vinegar you use, but this is a good place to start. You can make a few tablespoons for a single serving, or a few cups if you want to store it for a while.
3. Once you decide how much you are making, combine oil and vinegar in 3:1 ratio in a bowl, small tupperware, blender bottle, etc. Then either whisk, or shake (if you are using a container with a lid :))
4. Add salt and pepper to taste, and any other ingredients. I like to add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice in the summer, or sometimes a dash of dijon. Feel free to experiment with spices and herbs and figure out what tastes good to you. The options are endless! Then toss with salad and enjoy!
Do you have any favorite combinations? Share them in the comment box below!