When it’s hot outside, you want to feed your body cool, crisp foods like salad. But the typical green salad can be sooooo boring and actually not very nutritious. Think about the basic ingredients – lettuce, tomato, cucumber, croutons, dressing, and shredded cheese – and maybe some chicken (grilled or breaded) thrown in for good measure. Doesn’t scream “exciting” to us. Plus, think about all of the calories you could be taking in from the dressing (not to mention the sodium and various unpronounceable ingredients), cheese, croutons, and other crunchy toppings. Instead, turn that salad into a nutritional powerhouse that will leave your taste buds singing for more with our handy “how-to” guide.
HOW TO BUILD THE ULTIMATE SALAD
- PICK YOUR GREENS The typical salad starts with iceberg lettuce, which is nothing more than fiber-packed water. Instead pick a darker leaf, like baby romaine, arugula, red or green leaf lettuce, or baby spinach leaves. For a lettuce with a delicate texture, try bibb or butter lettuce. Or try something totally different – buy a whole head of romaine lettuce, slice it in half lengthwise, and then place each half (cut side down) on the grill for 2 minutes.
- ADD SOME COLOR Time to boost the nutritional and taste profile of your salad by adding other veggies with a variety of colors. Try artichoke hearts (water-packed), roasted bell peppers, oven-roasted eggplant and zucchini, shaved carrots, baby heirloom tomatoes, hearts of palm, chunks of roasted butternut squash, or corn (raw or fire-roasted). Fresh fruit can also play a role in a delicious salad, as mango, peach, apples, pears, and berries add a nice sweet element.
- GRAB SOME PROTEIN The protein in your salad is important as it keeps you feeling fuller for a longer period of time and helps you maintain a steady blood sugar level. Try smoked, water-packed or grilled salmon, water-packed chunk light tuna (lowest in mercury), seared rare tuna, boiled or grilled shrimp, crab, smoked trout, grilled chicken, smoked turkey breast, black beans, shelled edamame (soy beans), garbanzo beans, or cannellini beans.
- INCLUDE TEXTURE Texture is really important as it gives your salad another dimension. Think crunchy – chopped or slivered nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios), toasted whole grain pita bread chunks (instead of croutons or fried noodles), and lightly toasted whole grain panko bread crumbs. Or go the opposite route with smooth, having diced up avocado, pieces of hearts of palm, or a little reduced-fat goat or feta cheese in your salad.
- DRESS TO IMPRESS Salad dressing is usually the calorie bomb that kills your healthy intentions. One tablespoon can have up to 120 calories! Now think about the fact that most restaurants put on at least 4 tablespoons! Yikes! Sure, you can use some of the “light” and “fat-free” salad dressings out there, but be careful of the other ingredients, including added sugar and salt, and the many chemicals that are added to create texture and serve as preservatives. Whipping up your own salad dressing is actually very easy to do and allows you to keep the calories (and chemicals) in check. Try one of our salad dressing recipes and you’ll think twice about the bottled stuff. Each recipe makes 1 serving – it’s not a lot of dressing as we don’t like to have a soggy salad. We think that the fresh taste of all the salad ingredients shouldn’t be masked by the dressing, but rather enhanced by a touch of extra flavor. You can always double the recipe for a larger serving.
- 1 tbs. balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbs. dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp. agave nectar or honey
- Mix all ingredients together in a dish and pour over salad; toss.
For the entire recipe: 39 calories; 0 (g) fat; 8.4 (g) carbs; 0.1 (g) protein; 5.1 (g) sugar
- 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
- 1 tbs. seasoned rice vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tsp. chopped scallions
- Mix all ingredients together in a bowl; toss with salad.
For the entire recipe: 85 calories; 5.6 (g) fat; 8.6 (g) carbs; 1.4 (g) protein; 4.5 (g) sugar
- 1/2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tbs. red wine vinegar or lemon juice
- pinch of salt and cracked black pepper
- pinch of dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano)
- Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and toss with salad.
For the entire recipe: 61 calories; 7 (g) fat; 0.2(g) carbs; 0 (g) protein; 0 (g) sugar
MISO TAHINI DRESSING (get the video on how to make it here)
- 1 tbs. sweet white miso
- 1 tbs. tahini
- 1 tbs. low-sodium tamari (or soy sauce)
- 1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
- 2-3 tbs. seasoned rice vinegar
- Place all ingredients into a mason jar and seal with a lid and shake to combine.
2 servings: Per serving: 114 calories; 5.5 (g) fat; 9.2 (g) carbs; 4.5 (g) protein; 5 (g) sugar