Salad. The word itself can conjure up thoughts of dieting and boring lunches, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Salads can be packed with nutrients, flavor, and color while giving you convenient options for meals or snacks.
The key is in the ingredients. Traditionally, a salad is a mixture of greens that is usually topped with a dressing. But, salads go way beyond iceberg lettuce, croutons, and ranch dressing. The possibilities are virtually endless as long as you understand how to build your salads to include all three macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
Carbohydrates. Build your salad on a foundation of vegetables. Leafy greens such as spinach, romaine, arugula, kale, and watercress add a ton of phytonutrients while giving the salad plenty of fullness. Additional vegetables such as red, orange, or yellow peppers, onions, beets, carrots, or parsnips will add some crunch and a splash of color. Fruit is a flavorful ingredient, but limit it to one serving or less per salad. Apples, pears, grapes, or strawberries add wonderful sweetness but still pack plenty of nutrition.
Protein. Without protein, a salad may leave you wishing for more sustenance. Add a protein source and your salad rises to a new level. Include 4-8 ounces of a meat source such as steak, chicken, turkey, pork, tuna or anything else you desire. Two hard-boiled eggs would also suffice as a protein source. If you follow a vegetarian diet, you should still focus on getting a serving of protein through beans, legumes, or other acceptable sources.
Fat. A fat source could be as simple as an olive oil based dressing but the options don’t end there. Toppings such as avocado, nuts, shredded cheese, or olives are all healthy fats that keep you satiated while adding incredible flavor.
Finally, add your favorite herbs and spices or a squeeze of lemon and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how flavorful a salad can be.
Salads work great if you’re packing your lunch because there is no need to heat anything up – you can eat everything cold. Just prep and pack your greens and veges in a bowl – remember to choose a bowl large enough to eventually hold all the ingredients of your salad. Cut up your protein source and keep it in a separate bowl. Pack a side of healthy fats in a third bowl along with a small container of dressing. When it’s time to eat, just add the protein and fat to your main bowl and you have a complete meal that’s ready to satisfy.
So structure your salad in a way that ensures you’re getting complete nutrition while enjoying everything a great salad has to offer.
Try this DIY salad dressing:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp honey
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper (to taste)
Keep refrigerated and use within a week. Enjoy!