I was inspired to write this post based on a recent article that claimed salads had no nutritional value and should be avoided. I won’t bother sharing the article, from a major daily publication, but I will say that if you are talking about iceberg lettuce drowned in highly processed dressings full of unhealthy fats, sugar and additives, then yes I would agree. However, maybe it is because I’m from California or maybe it’s because I think of salad SO differently, but I think a hearty salad is not only very nutritious but delicious as well! The key: choose quality ingredients and go for variety!

Here’s my easy “Build a Hearty Salad” formula:

  • Choose a protein

  • Choose some vegetables

  • Choose some greens

  • Add some healthy fats

  • Optional: add some beans

  • Optional: add some whole grains, starchy vegetables or fruit

salad-791643_1280

 

Protein: 3 oz (size of a deck of cards)

  • chicken
  • turkey
  • grass-fed beef
  • fish or shellfish
  • hard boiled egg
  • cheese*
  • edamame
  • tofu
  • tempeh
  • beans or lentils*

 

Vegetables: Pick 2 or more (1+ cup total)

  • asparagus
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • cucumber
  • red bell pepper
  • green beans
  • tomatoes
  • zucchini
  • carrots
  • artichoke hearts
  • onions
  • mushroom

 

Greens: 1-2 cups

  • cabbage
  • kale
  • mixed greens
  • spinach
  • arugula
  • fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, dill or basil

 

Healthy fats: 1-2 T.

  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds
  • cheese*
  • olive oil
  • avocado
  • olives

 

Beans & legumes: ½ cup (optional)

  • beans: garbanzo, black, pinto, kidney, white or cannellini
  • lentils

 

Whole Grains, Starchy Vegetables or Fruit: 1/3- 1/2 cup (optional)

  • quinoa
  • barley
  • millet
  • bulgur
  • brown rice
  • sweet potato or yams
  • beets
  • winter squash like roasted butternut or delicata
  • pomegranate seeds
  • berries like strawberries or blueberries
  • fresh figs
  • citrus like orange or grapefruit
  • mango

*some foods could count in either category: for example, cheese could be a protein or a fat and beans/lentils could be the protein in the salad or added for more fiber!

spinach-791639_1280

A few other tips and suggestions for building your hearty salads:

  • Choose organic whenever possible! See my previous post on Buying Organic for more information.
  • Go for variety and start with ingredients you love. The beauty of this list is to mix and match with the nutritious foods you already enjoy eating. Be creative!
  • Raw vegetables hard for you to digest? No problem. Lightly steam vegetables and then cool and store them for salads later. Or use leftover roasted vegetables from a previous meal. In fact, the entire “salad” can be thrown into a pan on medium heat and eaten as stir-fry if your body doesn’t do well on raw or it’s winter and your body wants warm food.
  • Don’t skip the fat! You need healthy fats to help you absorb those wonderful fat-soluble vitamins like A, E, and K.
  • Don’t have time to make a salad every day? Consider my favorite thing: Salad in a Jar (lots of great ideas on this post too!)
  • Most pre-made dressings are full of sugar, processed oils, and additives. There are a few better options out there, but in general I suggest making your own dressings. (See below for a few ideas and suggestions.) If you are out or don’t have a lot of time, fresh lemon juice, olive oil and a little black pepper will always be delicious!

Easy Dressings

Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh-ground pepper
  • Optional extras: spoonful of mustard, minced shallots, minced garlic, minced fresh herbs, teaspoon dried herbs, small spoonful of honey or maple syrup

 

“Creamy” Greek Dressing

  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon or stone-ground mustard
  • 2-3 tablespoons of tahini or hummus (to taste)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of lemon or apple cider vinegar
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • optional: fresh or dried dill
  • water to thin, if necessary

 

Asian-Style Dressing

  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon of orange zest
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
  • EITHER 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium tamari, reduced-sodium soy sauce, or Bragg’s amino acids OR 1 ½ tablespoons of white miso

 

Lemon-Mint Vinaigrette

  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon or stone-ground mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Optional: dash of honey or maple syrup

What is your favorite thing to put into a salad? Do you have a go-to combination that works for you or do you like to mix it up?

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