We hate to break it to you, but not every salad is healthy. Often times, people overload their salads with croutons, cheese, fried toppings, and high calorie dressings. Rather than making a healthy bowl of greens, people end up making salads that are greasy and heavy, exceeding 800 calories.
A salad is the perfect vehicle to obtain three or four servings of vegetables in one go. Salads are not boring because there are endless, tasty, and interesting variations. Whether you are using seasonal ingredients or some salad classics like tomatoes, celery, bell peppers, and cucumbers, salads are meant to be celebrated, not boring.
There are key ingredients that make the base of your salads. Start with fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, and homemade dressing. You get bonus points for adding healthy grains, nuts and seeds, and other colorful additions. The proportions and combinations are up to you. Use some of the following tips to help elevate your salads.
#1: Start Off Strong
First off, steer clear of iceberg and other pale lettuce varieties. They are less nutritious than the greens you should be using. If you are using lettuce, try darker or redder lettuces (romaine or leaf lettuces) because they are rich in vitamin C, folate, and potassium. If you don’t want to use lettuce, change up the game with mixed greens, spinach, kale mix, or arugula.
#2: Add Some Crunch
Adding crunch doesn’t mean topping your salads with croutons, tortilla strips, wonton chips, or fried noodles. These ingredients are high in sodium, fat, and they are low in nutrients. Add crunch to your salads with things like broccoli florets, alfalfa sprouts, purple cabbage, cucumbers, sunflower or chia seeds, celery, snap peas, or raw walnuts.
#3: Pack With Protein
Adding protein doesn’t mean that you have to add meat. Cheese is full of fat, eggs are filled with hormones, and tofu is genetically modified. Get a healthy dose of fiber and protein when you add black beans, lentils, or chickpeas to your salads.
#4: Give It Color
The great thing about adding color to your salads is that you get a wide variety of phytonutrients, which act as antioxidants that work to decrease oxidative stress in the body. Color up your salad by adding things like pomegranate seeds, avocado slices, beets, tomatoes, bell peppers, or red onion.
#5: Fold In Leftovers
Try to avoid using white potatoes because they are high in starch. Use chopped sweet potatoes in place of them because they are delicious and rich in beta-carotene. Great leftovers to add to your salads include roasted Brussels sprouts, sautéed asparagus, or roasted sweet potatoes.
#6: Freshen With Fruit
You can add dried fruit to your salads, but you have to be careful because dried fruits can contain lots of sugar and preservatives. Dried fruit should be unsulfured and free of added sugars. You can’t go wrong with fresh fruit, so it can be beneficial to add strawberries, blueberries, nectarines, apples, pears, or blackberries to your salads.
#7: Dress It Well
Most people use dressings that are rich in fats, calories, processed ingredients, and added sugars. Making your own dressings is not time consuming and it is healthier for you. You can use avocado, coconut, or olive oils to obtain heart-healthy fats. You can also use fresh lemon or lime juice, along with apple cider, balsamic, or red wine vinegars. Season with sea salt and black pepper, in addition to whatever seasonings you enjoy.
If you aren’t a big salad eater, try to make at least two or three a week, plus one full-meal salad a week. Don’t limit yourself to green salads either! Try to experiment with fruit salads to get your daily servings of fruit. Check out our salad recipes to get inspired!