Is eating more servings of fruits and vegetables part of your goals this year? Then what could be more appropriate than including a salad with lunch or dinner.
At this time of year, the fresh produce that is usually enjoyed in the warmer months may not be plentiful. But don’t lose hope. Salads can be so much more than head lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
If greens are your choice for a well-made salad, go for variety. Make the base of the salad tasty and nutritious by combining different types of greens. Consider golden endive, chicory, arugula, red-purple radicchio, romaine, escarole, spinach, and beet greens. These will add vitamin A, C, K, folate and some iron to your daily intake.
Next consider healthy additions that add color, texture, and even more nutrients. The list is as inclusive as your imagination. In the veggie category try canned versions of artichokes, olives, kidney beans, chickpeas, and corn. Avocadoes add healthy monounsaturated fat, and cooked sweet potato and winter squash contribute magnesium and vitamin A (in the form of beta carotene). Or, toss in leftovers from a previous meal.
How about a bit of sweetness? Dried fruit such as cherries, raisins, and dates work well in salads. Clementines or navel oranges, canned pears and peaches, or chopped apples are other tasty additions from the fruit category.
For a hearty salad that doubles as a meal, add healthy protein sources. Consider low-fat, cooked meat and poultry including turkey, chicken, round steak, and pork loin. Deli meats are convenient, but read the labels to identify the high sodium choices. Chopped nuts, canned beans (all sorts including soy beans or edamame), and canned tuna and salmon are other satisfying additions to a salad. For the adventurous ones among you, try tofu and quinoa.
What about dressings on those greens? A healthy salad can be made less so by smothering the ingredients with high-fat or high-salt dressings. Use a light hand when pouring the dressing, or put a small amount in a side dish to dip into with fork tines before spearing the greens. Read labels to find dressings that contain healthy fats such as olive oil and reduced sodium. Or, make you own. Check out the link for make-at-home versions.
Other salad favorites are the side dishes made with a creamy base, such as mayonnaise. These can be high in fat, depending on the amount and type of mayonnaise used. Consider instead plain, fat-free Greek yogurt as a healthy base for this type of salad. Mix together chopped apples, your choice of dried fruit, and yogurt. Top with a sprinkle of chopped nuts. Or, layer the ingredients in a tall, stemmed glass or parfait and sprinkle some cinnamon on top. This makes a great dessert, too.
With a little imagination salad combinations can be endless no matter what time of year it is. Try something new and different today. (Make sure to click on the highlighted areas for ideas and information.)