It’s time to end your love-hate relationship with salads. Learn to find the right balance between flavor and nutrition by following these tips:
1. Choose a Leafy Base (at least 2 cups)
- Darker greens are more nutritionally dense. While iceberg lettuce isn’t bad, you get more nutritional bang per bite with darker greens.
2. Choose a Lean Protein (3 – 4 oz)
- Prepare your protein in a healthy way (grilling vs. frying), and don’t forget vegetarian sources – use these proteins alone or in combination.
3. Choose a Healthy Fat (1-2 serving – amounts vary by ingredient)
- Certain vitamins and phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables need fat for absorption – so don’t leave it out! Keep serving size in mind, though – more isn’t necessarily better.
4. Bulk it Up with Fruits and Vegetables
- Pump up your salad’s color, volume, and nutritional value – just be cautious of the serving sizes for starchier vegetables.
5. Jazz it Up
- These toppings aren’t necessary, but they add extra flavor. Some are higher in carbohydrates and fat than others – so consider your needs, and choose portions wisely.
6. Dress it Up
- Use citrus juice, vinegar, or olive oil-vinegar mix. If using store-bought dressings, read the Nutrition Facts panel and ingredients to choose the best option.
Here are some examples to get you started:
- Base: Romaine
- Protein: Black beans and/or grilled chicken
- Healthy Fat: Avocado or olive oil-based dressing
- Bulk it Up: Carrots, corn, onions, peppers, tomatoes
- Jazz it Up: Cilantro, low-fat cheese
- Dress it Up: Lemon or lime juice (Bonus: This will help keep the avocado from browning!) or olive oil-based dressing
- Base: Mixed greens
- Protein: Chickpeas, tuna or salmon (Bonus: Fatty fish double as a protein and healthy fat)
- Healthy Fat: Fatty fish, olives, olive oil-based dressing
- Bulk it Up: Artichoke hearts, cucumber, peppers, red onion, tomatoes
- Jazz it Up: Low-fat/fat-free feta cheese, whole-wheat orzo
- Dress it Up: Vinegar or olive oil-based dressing
- Base: Kale
- Protein: Grilled chicken or tofu
- Healthy Fat: Olive oil-based dressing or walnuts
- Bulk it Up: Roasted – Asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, sweet potatoes
- Jazz it Up: Low-fat cheese, wheat berries
- Dress it up: Lemon juice or olive oil-based dressing
Laura is currently a graduate student in the University of Pittsburgh’s Coordinated Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics program on her way to become a registered dietitian. Connect with Laura on LinkedIn or on twitter (@lmaydak) for motivation and tips to live your healthiest, happiest life – all given with a healthy dose of humor.