Hearty Salads and Easy Dressings

Hearty Salads and Easy Dressings

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?

Salad in a jar: The great lunch idea that I can’t stop sharing!

Salad in a jar: The great lunch idea that I can’t stop sharing!

Summertime is a great season to be enjoying all the fresh fruits and vegetables at the markets.  Because it is usually hot, summer is also a great time to eat foods like fresh vegetables and fruits that are both cooling and hydrating. Salads can be great way to eat these, but how do you eat and prepare salads if you are on the go?

Well, I have to share one of favorite lunch ideas, and really, this is one I just can’t stop sharing! Have you heard of salad-in-a-jar? The basic concept is to make your salads ahead of time to save time in the week, but the idea is to use a mason jar to keep the contents separate until you are ready to mix them together.  The dressing goes on the bottom and the greens on very top to keep them from getting wilted and wet. Brilliant!

You can really be creative with this idea, but my favorite recipes to get started are found on this great recipe blog called The Yummy Life by Monica Matheny. I love that  she starts with cooked quinoa at the base, so you get some great protein and fiber in your salad and the salad dressing gets soaked up there. The recipes are also all gluten-free and vegan. Lastly, not only are the recipes yummy and varied, but she also has some excellent preparation tips.

Take this concept and run with it! The variations and possibilities are endless. You could use brown rice instead of quinoa or no grain at all. What some meat in there?—Then add some grilled organic chicken or smoked wild salmon. I also like to vary the nuts I add to my salads, so one day it will be walnuts and another pistachios. The vegetable choices are endless—green beans, celery, carrots, shredded beets—you name it! You could even add some seasonally fruit like berries or peaches for some added flavor. Lastly, I love that you can make these ahead of time and be ready to grab and go the rest of the week!

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

And for other salad-in-jar inspirations, check out the following:
http://backtoherroots.com/2013/04/09/salad-in-a-jar-101/
http://www.salad-in-a-jar.com/how-to-make-salad-in-a-jar-2
http://kblog.lunchboxbunch.com/2012/06/vegan-salad-in-jar-make-ahead-bliss.html

salad closeup

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