How to Build a Salad
Salads are an easy, tasty way to add vital nutrients to your diet. They’re so versatile and quick to make, and are an awesome addition to your meal prepping routine. If you’re hosting a family dinner or get together with friends, putting a little extra effort into your salads can make them real crowd pleasers!
Another benefit of regularly making salads part of your eating plan? You can take advantage of in-season fruits and veggies, and you might find it’s really easy to eat healthfully, even on a tight budget.
Make Your Base
Choose your leaf – so many to try: iceberg lettuce, romaine, spinach, cabbage, arugula, spring mix, Asian greens, shaved Brussels sprouts and more. Leafy greens are packed full of nutrients. Each leaf has its own nutrient profile but in general, leafy greens are a good source of vitamins A, C, K, fiber, potassium and more. Try different greens to find what you like, or combine as many greens as you like to make it even more tasty and delicious!
Choose a Protein
Protein helps you feel full for a longer period of time. Keep it lean and avoid fried meats. Use different herbs and spices to change up the flavors. Some good protein choices include: chicken, steak, ham, eggs, fish such as tuna, salmon and mackerel, tofu, chickpeas, edamame, cheese or beans.
Add a Grain
As a source of carbohydrates, adding grains to your salad can give your energy supply a little boost. Adding a healthier grain option, such as couscous or quinoa, provides your body with tummy-filling fiber, as well as a number of key nutrients. Grains also add an earthy flavor that balances tangy dressings.
Choose Three Vegetables
There is no such thing as a right or wrong combination when selecting vegetables for your salad. I suggest using both cooked and raw vegetables to see for yourself which textures and flavors you like best. Some great vegetable combinations to try are tomato, onion and mushroom; or carrot, cucumber and asparagus. The more color, the wider the range of nutrients you will get from your salad. And remember to think seasonally for great flavor and optimum health!
Remember Healthy Fats
Your body needs fat to help regulate your mood and keep your blood sugar in check. Foods such as nuts, chia seeds, flaxseed, avocado and olives are good sources of healthy fats and omega 3s.
Omega 3s can help lower blood pressure, as well. It’s easy to incorporate healthy fats into your salad - just sprinkle over some chopped walnuts, toss in some seeds for extra crunch (raw, unsalted sunflower seeds are great) or add diced avocado, which is one of my favorites!
Make Your Dressing
A good dressing can turn any ingredient combo into an amazing, flavorful salad. When it comes to salad dressings, I believe that fresh is best. I’d much rather make my own salad dressing to avoid the extra calories, saturated fat, sugar and sodium found in store-bought dressing. Try this: whisk together a healthy oil, such as virgin olive or avocado oil; an acid, such as vinegar or citrus juice; and seasonings, such as fresh or dried herbs. Start with a 1:1 oil-acid ratio and then balance to your preferred taste. A tasty, homemade vinaigrette takes your salad to a whole new level! Here are some ingredient ideas:
- Oils: olive, avocado, sesame, flax, or flavored oils such as garlic or chili
- Acids: vinegars, lemon juice or lime juice
- Seasonings: salt, pepper, herbs, your favorite spices
Try Some Extras
Finally, a little something extra can add even more nutrients and flavor to your salad. Try fresh fruit (avoid dried fruit as it is very calorie dense), garlic, honey, mustard or Greek yogurt. The options are endless!
By Kinzy Krafka, RD, Bryan Bariatric Advantage