Salads are great diet foods – they are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants – all for very little calories. Starting a meal with a side salad can help curb your appetite since veggies are water dense and can fill you up causing you to eat less. Salads are excellent if you want to eat healthier or if you want to loose some weight. Just be careful of the dressing – a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar or a squeeze of lemon and dash of olive oil are always a safe bet. If your salads contain the usual lettuce, cucumber and tomato it can get boring very fast. Here are some tips to jazz up your dull salads that can transform your lunches from mundane to mouth watering.
Switching up the greens:
Sticking to romaine lettuce is not a bad choice but trying out different leafy greens can really add flavor to your salads. Try adding baby spinach leaves, arugula, kale, collards and cabbage. Different greens offer various nutrients so even combining different types of leafy greens would be a great idea. In addition to greens, adding some fresh herbs can really amplify the flavor of your salads. Adding cilantro, basil and parsley and mint can add a fresh taste – no need to over power your salads with herbs, a little does go a long way to add depth and boost flavor.
Varying the protein source:
A salad can leave you hungry and unsatisfying if you don’t include any protein. Protein helps keep us full since it takes our bodies a longer time to break it down for digestion. Because vegetables aren’t very high in protein, if we don’t include a protein source in our salads we will be hungry a lot sooner. Grilled chicken breast is always a great option since it’ very lean. Grilled salmon is also a plus since its filled with heart-healthy omega-3’s. Canned Tuna or salmon packed in water is also another great quick healthy option. If you want a vegetarian source try tofu, hard-boiled eggs or beans. Beans are a great source of fibre and protein – a great combo that helps keep you full and satisfied. Shelled edamame beans are another great source of vegetable protein and full of heart healthy monounsaturated fat. Even adding leftover quinoa, which is loaded with protein and fibre, can be added to salads for some texture and hearty taste.
Sweeten the dish:
Add a sweet twist in your salads by incorporating some fruit into your greens. Berries are great since they don’t require much chopping or dicing. Sprinkling fresh strawberries, blueberries or raspberries are great way to add some flavor and texture. Adding chopped apples and pears are also tasty and add a nice crunch. Mandarin oranges are also great because they are small and don’t require any chopping. Dried fruit such as raisins or cranberries add a nice sweet complement to salads and they also brighten up the color making it more appealing to eat!
Vary the texture:
Incorporating different textures can also shake up your taste buds and can make salads more enjoyable. Adding feta, goat cheese or Parmesan adds some decadence to you salads or for a healthier alternative try adding avocado slices which gives you the luxurious creamy taste but non of the saturated fat that cheese offers. Sprinkling some toasted nuts such as walnuts, pine nuts and pecans and seeds such as unsalted pumpkin and sunflower seeds add a delicious crunch. Instead of croutons you can toss in toasted pita strips. Adding different textures of foods into your salads will definitely help make your salads much more enjoyable.
Eat the rainbow:
Play around with different colors of vegetables since each color has its own set of antioxidants. If you usually eat green peppers try red peppers- red peppers have more vitamin C than all other peppers. Try to include at least 4 different colors in your salads to maximize your vitamins and minerals. All the veggies don’t need to be raw, you can add steamed or grilled asparagus and mushrooms as well as in addition to steamed sweet potatoes and carrots.
Salads don’t need precise recipes just keep an open mind and try to integrate different ingredients and textures for a different delicious salad each day of the week.
Anar Allidina, MPH, RD is a dietitian and has her own practice in Richmond Hill. She is also a clinical dietitian for Hayyan Healthcare and Medcan Clinic. For more information please visit www.anarallidina.com or email her at [email protected]