Salads are a great way to get in your daily dose of veggies. If you're aiming for a light and healthy meal, you may think choosing a salad is a no-brainer. Although this CAN be the case, if made incorrectly, salads can contain more calories and fat than wanted. Whether you prefer making your own chopped salad, or going to the local deli and having them assemble it for you, it IS possible to make a super-nutritious salad that's even waist-friendly. Here's how to do it:
Start with a hearty foundation.
Start by choosing a base for your salad that provides important nutrients like folic acid and lutein. Ditch the iceberg lettuce for baby spinach or mixed greens for added vitamins and minerals. Plus, even if you chop up the big spinach leaves, you will still get all of the health benefits!
Load on the veggies.
Pile your favorite fresh vegetables on top of your greens for 25 calories or less per ½-cup serving. Paint the rainbow! Choose a variety of colors to get the most health benefits- think red and green bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. You get extra points for bright-colored vegetables as these are high in antioxidants. Tomatoes, for example, contain lycopene and beta-carotene which are carotenoids that act as antioxidants.
Top it with protein.
While the fiber in the vegetables can provide some satiety, protein is a great way to make sure your salad has some staying power. If you're opting for animal protein, select a lean source such as skinless chicken or turkey breast, water-packed light tuna, wild salmon, or lean steak. Three ounces is the perfect portion size. If you prefer a plant-based protein source, choose half a cup of cubed tofu or ¾ cup of beans (chickpeas, kidney beans, or black beans).
Add some fat and flavor.
Fat is necessary for absorbing many of the nutrients in this salad, specifically the vitamin A and vitamin K found in the spinach and added veggies. Queue: salad dressing. The dressing that you choose can ultimately make-or-break your salad. When ordering a salad, it is best to request the dressing on the side so that you can control your own portion. Whenever possible, choose light, low-calorie, or low-fat options. I prefer making my own vinaigrette using one part olive oil and three parts vinegar mixed with some mustard, lemon juice, or spices for added flavor.
*And now for one of my favorite summer salads… This recipe is light and refreshing. It is perfect for a beach barbeque or backyard party.
Enjoy my Strawberry Spinach Salad
For more great salad recipes and ideas to help Build Your Own Salad Bar click here.