Let’s talk about salads. As a dietitian, do I want you to eat more of them? Sure. As a cook, do I want them to be interesting and satisfying? Absolutely! This is why I have made a new commitment to calling our main course salads BOWLS. A side salad of leafy greens – kale, arugula, radicchio, and spinach – with a simple vinaigrette is always appropriate. While adding raw vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, onion, and peppers can certainly increase the nutrition density of a salad, they don’t do much for its “wow” factor.
Here are some suggestions for building a main course bowl you can look forward to that has all the benefits of a salad and then some:
Base: Leafy greens should represent at least ½ of the ingredients in your bowl. Spring mix, romaine, kale, and baby spinach are salad classics, but if you’re feeling more adventurous, experiment with arugula, radicchio, or dandelion greens. Each green adds its own unique flavor to the dish. Purchasing pre-washed lettuces can be a real time-saver.
Tip: The 4-5 oz. boxed of pre-washed greens are the perfect serving size for a main course salad. Simple open, remove some greens to make room [use for smoothie later], and add the balance of your ingredients. Instant lunch box!
Fruits and Veggies: Have fun with these and utilize leftovers! Fruits and veggies can make salads a colorful work of art and a phytonutrient powerhouse. Aim to eat the rainbow in your salads for maximum nutrition. Fresh berries add sweetness and tartness. Pre-roasted vegetables, like sweet potatoes, squash, and cauliflower add texture and bulk to your salad making it feel more like a meal. Of course, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions are always welcomed to the party.
Tip: If you are a client of mine you’ve likely heard this before – roast two trays of vegetables at the beginning of the week to enjoy with your salads. Roasted cherry tomatoes, for example, add a completely different element than raw tomatoes.
Protein: Protein is essential for satiety and helping you feel satisfied until your next meal. Leftovers are perfect for this role. When making dinner, increase the servings and put aside your portion for lunch the next day. Choice proteins include fish, hard-boiled eggs, chicken, and turkey but vegetable proteins like quinoa, beans, and tofu are excellent too. Serving size for protein = about 4 oz. Serving size for quinoa/grain = ¼ cup.
Tip: If weight control is a concern for you, stick to the serving sizes recommended. For example, a quinoa bowl may be healthy, but it can be very calorie dense [222 calories for 1 cup cooked.] Also, do not overlook stocking canned proteins, like organic chicken and boneless, skinless salmon [LP team favorite] in your office or pantry for convenience.
The Add-ons – Nuts, seeds, avocado: Healthy fats are also important to keeping you full and will provide texture to your salad. Keep your favorite nuts and seeds stocked in your pantry. Be careful to control amounts here as the calories add up quickly. 200 calorie servings: 8 whole walnuts, 29 almonds, 22 cashews, ¼ cup sunflower seeds.
Tip: The perfect serving size for nuts is what fits in the palm of your hand – everyone’s serving will differ.
The Finish – Dressing: And last, but definitely not least – dressing! Ditch the store-bought dressing to avoid added sugars and preservatives (and save a few pennies) by making your own at home. Start with a basic dressing: 3 tablespoons of olive oil + 2 tablespoons of vinegar [we LOVE white balsamic] + 1 small crushed clove of garlic + 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup. Add to a mason jar and shake it like you mean it. Make a batch by doubling the recipe and store in the refrigerator.
Tip: The addition of 1 teaspoon of mustard or miso makes dressing cling to your ingredients. Probiotics are an added health benefit of miso – those healthy bugs that keep your gut happy.
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