Salads get a bad rap for being bland and tasteless and for leaving us unsatisfied and hungry for more food. They’ve been labeled the ultimate diet food. This makes me incredibly sad. I feel as though salads are the ultimate health food, but that does not make them synonymous with boring, bland, and dreaded food.
I’m here to share with you my tips for making salads into satisfying and delicious meals which you will actually look forward to. As an added bonus, they will offer you megadoses of micro and macro nutrients, hence my label #MacroMicroBowl.
When you add the right ingredients in the right ratios you can have a huge volume of food without excess calories and fat. A salad that contains a high-volume of fiber, water, and nutrient-dense vegetables, as well as lean protein and a bit of healthy fat will leave you satisfied full for hours. Plus, you’ll actually ENJOY eating it! For healthy eating to be sustainable you have to #LikeHowYouEat.
⇒Step one, grab a big bowl. No seriously! 😉
⇒Next up, the salad base:
My suggestion…ditch the boring iceberg and add some excitement. Spinach, kale, arugula, baby greens, sprouts, cabbage, Romaine, butter lettuce, etc. Choose as many as you like for texture variations.
⇒Then, load up the veggies:
Raw veggies add great texture, but I prefer to add at least some warm roasted vegetables to my salads. First, because cooked vegetables are easier to digest. Second, I also like the way that the warm vegetables wilt the salad greens slightly.
When I am able to eat my salad at home, there’s the added texture fun of having crispy roasted vegetables. Even when I reheat them at work for lunches, the flavor profile of roasted vegetables is completely different than uncooked or steamed. Once you try it you’ll understand! Batch prepping roasted veggies is definitely easier than doing it each time you want them.
Some of my favorites: Squash (butternut, spaghetti, zucchini, yellow squash, delicada, kabocha), sweet potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, broccoli, carrots, green beans, and sweet peppers. I also like cabbage slaw mixes/salad mixes with heftier chopped things that hold up to the roasting process (I like ones that have shredded Brussels sprouts, kale, shredded broccoli). You can use frozen vegetables too. This is also a good way to use up leftover vegetables!
Seafood like tuna, salmon, tilapia, or shrimp. Seasoned chopped, pulled, or crumbled chicken/turkey/beef. Salads are also a great way for using up leftover meat—especially things like lunchmeat, pulled meat, or crumbled leftover meatloaf. Try broiling it until crispy! Sometimes I will freeze individual portions of leftover meats that don’t get eaten and pull them out for my salads another time. You can also used cooked sliced sausage, flavored packs of tuna or salmon, or even hard boiled eggs.
If you get creative here you can add a lot of flavor without a lot of calories. Choose dressings that are high in flavor so you need less of them (things like Greek or balsamic), or other vinegar-based dressings. Another good combo is salsa and guacamole with liquid aminos.
- Saucy Lips Foods: My favorites are the Tangy Mango, Zesty Cilantro, and Pineapple Thai.
- Tessemae’s dressings and marinades. I like to drain the oil off the top and then add water to reconstitute. This will help to save some calories, but still gives enough oil that you absorb the nutrients well. My favorites are the Zesty Ranch, Classic Italian, and Balsamic Vinaigrette, and Honey Balsamic. I also like the BBQ sauce on salads too! Usually I thin it some with water and/or mix it with the Zesty Ranch (#StrangeButGood).
- Bolthouse Farms Dressings: They make lower calorie, yogurt based dressings which offer the creamy-factor with less fat and they also make vinaigrettes too. My favorites are the Cilantro Avocado, Chunky Blue Cheese, and the Salsa Ranch. Haven’t tried the Salsa Verde Avocado or the Avocado Green Goddess, but I need to find them! They are new to me.
- Try seasonings instead of dressings. Greek seasoning, salad supreme seasoning by McCormick, fresh herbs and spices, or my favorite shortcut: Gourmet Garden herb paste and dried herbs.
⇒Pick some additional flavor additions:
Olives, strongly flavored cheese crumbles like blue cheese or feta, crumbled center-cut bacon.
⇒Healthy fats /”treat toppings” (use sparingly):
(I’m referring to using portion control/limited quantity, not meaning limiting frequency of consumption). These are nutrient dense, but also calorie dense and add satisfaction but should not be overused. Things like avocado, nuts, cheese, cream-based dressings, “treat toppings” (like croutons, dried fruit, bacon etc.)
Chopped salads are way more fun in my opinion. They allow you to get a little taste of everything all in one bite, plus they make bites easier to eat. Have you ever tried to navigate that huge lettuce leaf into your mouth off of your fork or am I the only one? The best tool I have found is the OXO salad chopper bowl. I start with the harder to chop things in the bottom and roll the chopper over them first. Then I add softer things and lettuce/greens. Once chopped, add your dressing and toss.
Here is a before and after of my Panera Bread (take out) salad using the OXO salad chopper and bowl:
Here are some examples of various salad combos I have noshed my way through!!