I can’t tell you how many times patients proudly report that they eat healthy and go on to describe how they “eat salads all the time”. Then I ask them to tell me about their salads. Most describe iceberg lettuce, a few token vegetables, bottled salad dressing and croutons. People usually judge their salad dressing by either the calorie count or they just look for “low-fat” or “fat-free” on the label. Bottled salad dressings and croutons have to be one of the worst hidden sources of trans-fats, genetically modified oils, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, and other preservatives/additives. Always read the ingredient list. If it sounds like a science experiment instead of a recipe, put it back on the shelf.
The salad can be a perfect vehicle for healthy nutrition, if done the right way. A nice cool salad is the perfect light summer meal. Add a side of lean protein such as grilled salmon, shrimp skewers, chicken breast, or a small filet. Here is my recipe for a healthy salad that is packed with nutrients AND delicious.
- Try experimenting with different varieties of greens: spring mix, romaine, green leaf, red leaf, butter lettuce, arugula, spinach, etc…
- Make your salad colorful (think green/red/orange/yellow) with a variety of vegies: cucumber, tomatoes, red/yellow/orange peppers, radishes, carrots, avocado, red onion, mushrooms, corn, jicama, beets, and any other vegies you want to add.
- Add chopped healthy toasted nuts or seeds such as walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds. Toast them in a pan or in the oven with some sea salt. It is so important to eat nuts and seeds every day. They are packed with vitamins and minerals that are lacking in most of our diets.
- Add some aged, soft cheese such as goat, blue, gorgonzola or feta cheese.
- For special occasions, add some crispy proscuitto (cook until crispy in non-stick pan).
- I like to dress salad simply with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It is also very easy to make a variety of your own salad dressing with these recipes.
- Skip the packaged croutons which often contain GMO oils, trans-fats, MSG, and additives/preservatives that you don’t need in your diet.
- If you must go with bottled dressing, buy Annie’s salad dressings or organic Newman’s Own, both carried at most grocery stores.