Oh how I love salads.
The great thing about salads is that they can be a healthy meal option that’s quick and easy to assemble. And they’re perfect as a no-cook meal in warm weather.
The downside of a lot of salads is that they can often appear healthy, but sometimes they are loaded up with a ton of sugar, unhealthy oils, or processed toppings. So today I though we would talk about 6 tips for creating a healthier salad. Here we go…
1. Add a protein source
For a salad to be a meal, it has to have more than just lettuce and veggies and adding a protein source is crucial to make you feel full and satisfied. Nowadays I usually opt for chicken or salmon, but some of my favorite past recipes have included tempeh, quinoa, black beans, black-eyed peas, and lentils as protein options. There are a lot of choices to choose from!
2. Skip the sugary dressings and use berries for sweetness instead
Most conventional salad dressings have added sugar and if you drench your salad in dressing, this sugar can quickly add up. Instead, I usually mix balsamic vinegar with a little olive oil (or just use straight balsamic vinegar) to dress my salad and then add in some fresh berries for color and sweetness. The nice thing about using a whole fruit instead of sugar for sweetness is that you get a good mix of fiber and antioxidants along with it.
3. Make sure there’s a fat source
I’m not a fan of low-fat or non-fat recipes and if you use bottled dressings labeled “non-fat” or “low-fat,” it means that they’ve taken out the fat and replaced it with added sugar to add flavor. (And that’s definitely not what we want.)
A little fat is necessary for satiating our appetites and making us feel full and satisfied. I prefer for my fat sources to come from whole-food sources like nuts or avocados rather than oils because you get more nutrients than you would if you were just eating the oil. One of my favorite tips is using pecans to replace the texture and crunch of croutons in a salad. Yum!
4. Skip the cheese
Dairy can often be a problem for folks and most of us would be better off skipping it altogether. However, most of us really love the taste of cheese because of the mixture of fat and salt, along with the addictive properties of dairy. The nice thing about this is that we can recreate this same flavor profile in a nut cheese like my Creamy Herbed Almond Cheese. This recipe is created using whole almonds so you can sprinkle a little of this over your salad as a healthy fat source.
5. Choose dark greens and load them up
And here is where I have to admit to a little lie. See that photo above? That pretty photo is a complete lie because that’s not usually what my salad looks like.
I usually eat my salad out of a giant mixing bowl that’s full of greens. My guess is that my average salad contains 5- 6 cups of dark leafy greens. Most of us could use more fresh greens in our diets and salads are a great way to get them — assuming that your salad actually has more greens than toppings. 😉
6. Add herbs and seasonal veggies for extra flavor
The last thing that we want is to end up with a bland, boring salad. Don’t let that happen to you. Bland salads should never happen to good people.
Make sure that your salad has a variety of veggies. This will help to add extra flavor and fiber, making you feel fuller than just the greens alone. Some of my current favorite salad toppings include roasted fennel, shredded veggies, raw cucumbers or tomatoes, sautéed zucchini, or grilled eggplant. In winter time, I love using roasted root vegetables on top of salads.
And don’t be afraid to experiment with fresh herbs! Summertime basil, fresh cilantro, and parsley are all delicious thrown into a salad and they can also be blended with vinegar of your choice to create a quick and zesty vinaigrette!
What are you favorite tips for sprucing up a salad?
- 2 free-range, organic skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
- 1 tablespoons safflower oil
- salt and pepper or poultry rub
- 2 medium heads of romaine, chopped
- ½ cup pecans
- 1 batch creamy herbed almond cheese (optional)
- 1 cup (organic) cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup fresh (organic) blueberries
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil (optional)
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (optional)
- Brush chicken with safflower oil and season with salt and pepper or a poultry rub. Grill the chicken on both sides until done, about 7 minutes per side, until the internal temperature reaches at least 165 degrees F.
- Assemble the salad. Divide the romaine evenly amongst four plates and top with pecans, herbed almond cheese (if using), tomatoes, and blueberries.
- Slice chicken breasts and divide amongst plates.
- Mix balsamic vinegar and olive oil (if using) and drizzle over salads.
- Top with fresh basil and serve.