While salads are often considered to be a boring precursor to a meal. You probably have not gone home and attempted to recreate the side salad at your local steak house, as it offers little nutritionally and lacks taste and texture. However, when a salad is constructed thoughtfully it can be not only nutritious, but filling and a dish you will want to eat again.
The key to successful salad building is to abandon the idea of what salad should be and make it into what you want it to be. There are no rules to create your personal salad combination, so be creative!
Branch out from iceberg lettuce and consider other lettuces and greens. Spinach is tender and subtle as a salad base, while romaine is crunchy. Arugula has a stronger flavor that has a bit of a bite to it. Kale is a popular green that makes a wonderful base when massaged to tenderize. Even shredded cabbage can be used to add bulk to the base of a salad.
Most vegetables are a great addition to a salad when in the right combination. The list of vegetable options to choose from for salads is almost limitless – avocado, red onion, shredded carrots, raw yellow squash or zucchini, broccoli, corn, cherry tomatoes, jicama, beets, cucumbers, etc.
It is simple to make a salad into a meal by adding cooked grains, such as brown rice, cooked millet, wheat berries, or barley.
When considering how to add protein to a salad, do not limit yourself to meat, eggs, or cheese. Consider adding quinoa, marinated or baked tofu, or beans. The added benefit of these protein sources is that they are all heart healthy options.
Apples, blueberries, pears, strawberries, and clementines all add something fresh and tart, while dried raisins, figs, cherries or cranberries add compact sweetness to a salad. Beware that dried fruits are more calorie dense than fresh. Even unsweetened, shaved coconut can be a nice surprise!
Nuts and Seeds
Roasted sunflower kernels add a bit of protein and fiber, as do nuts of all kinds. Nuts such as walnuts, pecans, cashews, and almonds are all wonderful in salads, whether used raw or roasted.
Using store bought salad dressing quickly adds unnecessary calories to your salad. Consider using salsa, hummus, or vinegar and oil instead with a little salt and pepper.
4-6 side salads
5 oz fresh baby spinach
6 strawberries, sliced or 1/2 cup of blueberries
1 small avocado, diced
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup walnuts, halved or almonds
Wash and dry the spinach and place into a salad bowl. Slice strawberries or wash the blueberries. Slice the red onion. Just before serving add the fruit, red onion, and nuts. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and gently toss. Lastly cut and add the avocado.
Lizzie Watters is a writer and cook. She enjoys writing about recipes, cooking tips, dieting and kitchen safety. Lizzie recently wrote about her favorite spiced nuts recipes.
Photo credit: typofi