Often when we plan our meals, we think of including a salad as the veggie portion. While that is wonderful, why not promote this healthy dish to the main course? Becki’s post from earlier this week gave some delicious ideas for main course salads. Seriously, the Greek salad is so good that you will want to eat it every day! If you do try it or another salad, may I suggest a few, okay seven, ways to make your salad even more delicious…and definitely worthy of the main course title.
- Red cabbage. Not only will you add a sweet crunchy ingredient, but you are also tossing in a nutritional powerhouse! With every bite, you are releasing anthocyanins into your body – this is a very good thing! These antioxidants are well known for their protective effect against disease. So while you thought you were just adding this vegetable for its beautiful color and fiber, you are getting much more.
- Hemp Seeds. I know what some of you may be thinking, but this seed, although from the same family, is not from the same plant as marijuana. Hemp seeds are incredible! The saying ‘good things come in small packages’ definitely applies! This complete protein has a nutty flavor and, if you purchase them shelled, they are soft and and a bit chewy. Mixed into a salad, you may not even notice them. As the mother of an 11 year old vegetarian who doesn’t seem to like any vegetarian option I provide her with, this is my new best friend when it comes to making sure she gets the protein she needs. I can go on and on about the hemp seed – and probably will in another post, but I am trying to keep this one short, so I will just mention one more thing… for those with nut allergies – this seed is rumored to be allergy-free!
- AVOCADO!! This is one of my all time favorite things to add to a salad! My mother-in-law always serves her salads with avocados and I have been doing the same with mine ever since we met! Not only does the fruit offer a delicious creamy texture, but it is full of lutein, which is important for the eyes (especially as we age). We need our eyes to stay sharp so we can see how beautiful the avocado’s vitamin E keeps our skin and hair! What a fruit! I may have to write more about this one too!
- If you want more crunch, add jicama. You will tend to see this root vegetable around the stores more often in the spring and summer. It offers a crunch with a mildly sweet taste and few calories. It is a good source of fiber and vitamin C. If you can’t find jicama – add an apple. Kids love apples and seeing them in a salad just may entice them to dig in!
- Mix up your greens! I prefer romaine and red leaf lettuce, adding spinach whenever possible. You will get plenty of vitamins A and K from your greens and typically a healthy helping of folate. If you are a fan of iceberg lettuce, keep eating! There are plenty of rumors out there discrediting iceberg lettuce of any nutritional value. The truth is, while it may not have as much vitamins A, K or folate, it still contains those vitamins. Iceberg lettuce is also a source of choline – which is important for neurological and cardiac health as well as cell membrane structure, and I think we all want healthy cells. One more thing to remember with greens, try to purchase organic. Lettuce and kale are on the Dirty Dozen list regarding pesticides and produce put out by the Environmental Working Group.
- Roasted veggies – straight from the oven. I love warm salads! Especially during the seasons when the air is cool, a warm meal is the perfect way to feel cozy inside and out. Benefit from all the vitamins found in the fall and winter squashes, beets, and potatoes (really, any vegetable you prefer) by roasting them and tossing them into your salad. With all the flavor that is released during the roasting process and the resulting tenderness of the vegetables, you may opt for no dressing. Simply toss cubed/bite-sized pieces of vegetables with oil (I like to use a light olive oil) and sprinkle with a little salt, pepper, and herb(s) of your choice. (Salt is always optional.) Roast at around 400 degrees until tender, then enjoy.
- Forget to buy the salad dressings and remember to buy the oil and herbs. I learned this trick during a trip to Massachusetts to visit my sister, Mary Beth. She is one of those amazing women that will try something for the first time and have it come out perfectly – no matter what the project! So, when she said this salad dressing was simple, I was skeptical. I am one of those women that will try something a million times and it still needs some work. But surprisingly, this is pretty foolproof! All you do is drizzle some olive oil onto your salad and add your favorite herbs and spices. She used a recipe from her lovely Italian mother-in-law: onion powder, salt, and pepper. So simple and so delicious! Your taste buds really get to savor the flavors that naturally occur in the foods in your salad.
So, in short – eat your veggies! Load your plate with color! Try new (organic) greens and add your protein with a sprinkle of hemp seed. Don’t drown out the flavor with the store bought dressing. Keep it simple and truly enjoy your meal! Comment below and let us know what you like to put in your salad!
Stay tuned, stay healthy, and stay Pretty in the Peak!
Marianne Lindgren, MS,RD