Thursday, July 3, 2014

Guest Post: 5 tips that will change the way you think about salad

I have not been a huge fan of salads for most of my life.  I was just plain tired of eating Romaine lettuce with tomatoes, cucumbers, and ranch dressing.  After too many of these salads in my childhood, I never wanted to see another bowl of Romaine again!

Salads are a great way to pack fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods that many people do not get enough of into one meal in a delicious way.

However, there are a couple problems with salads.  First, there is the common assumption that all salads are a healthy choice.  Imagine a salad made with lettuce, fried chicken, and a creamy, packaged Caesar dressing.  Yes, it may technically be a salad, but this is not necessarily a healthful way to eat one.  

Another problem is that a salad made only with vegetables and without the proper protein and heart-healthy fats may leave you hungry in 5 minutes .

here many wonderful strategies to combat these potential pitfalls.  Salads can be delicious and satisfying if you find the right ingredient combination.  It takes some extra time and effort to construct the perfect salad, but it is well worth it!
After learning these things and experimenting with salad recipes, I have found a new love for salads.  Search for ideas online or in cookbooks.  Go to the grocery store and pick ingredients that you think will taste really good together.  You can make a salad out of absolutely anything your heart desires, so don’t let yourself be limited to things you have seen on salads before!

Here are some tips to help you make a mouthwatering salad:

1. Pick any delicious base ingredient.

Salads don’t have to have lettuce as the base.  Use quinoa, farro, shredded carrots, or chopped purple cabbage as a base instead.  Get creative because the opportunities are endless!

If you do enjoy lettuce, do it right and invest in a salad spinner.  After washing your lettuce, you want to get the lettuce very dry before making your salad because the dressing will stick much better to dry leaves.

2. Pump up the flavor.

Add an extra boost of flavor to your salad by mixing fresh herbs into the lettuce, topping with the squeeze of a citrus fruit or sprinkling on some spices or citrus zest.

For example, I recently added a Mexican twist to my salad by mixing finely chopped cilantro into the lettuce and topping the final product with a squeeze of a lime and crushed red pepper flakes.

3. Get imaginative with toppings.

You can literally add almost  anything to a salad.  Go to the grocery store and buy whatever looks good to you.  Or go to the farmers market with nothing in mind and find what you love and what’s in season.  When you get home, prepare your ingredients, put them in a bowl, add dressing and other toppings, and call it a salad!  In each salad, keep it interesting by adding contrasting textures.  For example, add creamy avocados with nuts or soft goat cheese with croutons.

  • Start with a foundation of veggies!
  • Don’t forget about cheeses like blue cheese, goat cheese, Gouda, cheddar, or Parmesan.
  • Try adding grains like oats, whole grain pasta, or bread crumbs as toppings.
  • You can also add some crunch with nuts (try almonds or walnuts) and seeds (try chia seeds, sunflower seeds, or sesame seeds).
  • Don’t be afraid to add fruit to your salad for an extra punch of sweetness.
  • Adding animal products to you salad can be another great way to make a salad more filling.  Try baked salmon or chicken or slices of hard boiled eggs.

4. Learn how to make a mean, homemade dressing.

Here is a basic recipe for a homemade salad dressing that you can scale up or down depending on how much you need.  Experiment until you find a combination you love.  

  • ½ cup of oil such as olive, sesame, avocado, peanut, grapeseed, peanut, or walnut oil.
  • ¼ cup
    • acidic juice such as lemon, orange, lime, or grapefruit
    • vinegar such as balsamic, champagne, rice.
  • Any amount of flavoring such as garlic, shallot, mustard seed, soy sauce, honey, jam, ginger, fresh herbs (such as cilantro, thyme, and basil),, or spice (such as cumin and pepper).
  • Add some Greek yogurt (optional) to make it thick and creamy.

5. Use creative containers.

Just so you know, you don’t have to eat your salad out of a bowl.  Mix it up and eat your salad in a tall mason jar, a big plate, or even a large coffee mug.  Even though it won’t actually taste any different, sometimes mixing things up can make your meal more exciting!

Guest blog by Katie!
Katie is an intern at Grass Roots Nutrition and a recent graduate of Miami University with degrees in nutrition and zoology.  This fall, she will be attending the dietetic internship program at Bradley University in order to become a registered dietitian.  She loves running, traveling, and cooking healthy recipes with friends and family.  Her favorite foods are dark chocolate and cheese!

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