Building Better Salads – Part 1

Rabbit food. This is the word my husband has coined for my side and entrée salads that I prepare for many of our lunch and dinner meals. It must be part of the guy-code manual that every male must make fun of eating salads. strawspinachsaladDespite his constant teasing, I will add that he continues to gobble up these salads every time I prepare them. (I’ll take that as a wife-win!). The key to making a great salad is to add just the right amount of ingredients to create a variety of nutrients and textures.

Salads often go hand-in-hand with health foods. However, sometimes salads can be some of the unhealthiest items on the menu. Beware of these common salad ingredient villains.

  • Breaded proteins. Protein is an important ingredient for a salad, especially if it is going to be considered as an entrée salad. Breaded and fried chicken/shrimp will increase the amount of saturated and trans fat in your salad. The good news is that most restaurants will let you substitute a grilled protein for a breaded one. Other excellent protein choices include grilled/baked flank steak, salmon, tuna, shrimp, turkey, ham, hard-boiled eggs or even beans.
  • Croutons and chow mein noodles. These items provide a nice crunch factor in our salads, but they come in next to last place for their nutritional value. Try adding sunflower seeds or heart-healthy walnuts instead to provide a healthier, crunchy substitute.
  •  Bacon and cheese. Here are two ingredients that can make a salad’s saturated fat and sodium content go through the roof. If you can’t forego both items, try to at least opt for one or the other and be mindful of portion size. A serving size of cheese is 1 oz or ¼ cup which is about the size of 2 dominos or 4 dice.

Wimpy salads (as I call them) that only include iceberg lettuce, cheese and dressing are not only nutritionally inadequate, but just plain boring to eat! Start with a dark leafy green mixture and add any combination of vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and proteins for a more decadent salad. If you’re looking for ideas, here are few salads I commonly throw together:

Strawberry-Spinach Salad:man-salad

  • Spring Mix greens
  • Sliced strawberries
  • Feta cheese
  • Walnuts
  • Red onion
  • Grilled chicken (optional)
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing

Modified Greek Salad:

  • Spring Mix greens
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Grilled onions
  • Avocado slices
  • Roasted red bell peppers
  • Feta cheese
  • Grilled chicken or flank steak (optional)
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing

California Salad:

  • Spring Mix greens
  • Sweet corn kernels
  • Avocado slices
  • Fresh tomatoes
  • Red onion
  • Grilled chicken
  • Slivered almonds
  • Ranch dressing
  • Cilantro to garnish

Read on for Building Better Salads Part 2.

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