If I had a dollar for every time someone told me “I can’t go on a diet because I hate salads” I’d be a very wealthy woman! Indeed, salads are among the most common go-to dieting foods for people who are trying to lose weight or even maintain a weight loss. Problem is, many fall into the same ole rut of adding fat-free dressing to a big bowl of mixed greens, tomato, cucumber, shredded carrots, and other all-purpose garden vegetables.
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Although I’m an absolute sucker for a good salad, if I found myself constantly chomping on bland, boring and flavorless blends day in and day out, I’d probably hate them too.
But, this isn’t at all the case!
In fact, if you know me personally or even follow me on social media, you’ve likely recognized that my salad creations are quite flamboyant and far from bland, boring or flavorless. Since I generally eat one large meal a day, I always incorporate a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods into my salads in order to maintain the sustenance necessary for staying in good health and great shape.
Doing so definitely creates endless options and ideas for food pairing.
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So, if you’re becoming increasingly bored with eating the same old salads, try these eight easy tips for building more exciting, wholesome and delicious blends that are well balanced in good carbohydrates, healthy fats, high-quality protein and a ton of essential micronutrients.
Cram in Lots of Leafy Green Vegetables
Salads are without a doubt the absolute best way to get more leafy green veggies in your diet. Leafy greens are exceptionally low in calories and rich in dietary fiber, antioxidant vitamins (A, C, and E), vitamin K, potassium, and the powerful bone-building mineral calcium. Some great choices include kale, spinach, and Swiss chard. If you’d rather use lettuce greens, opt for romaine or loose-leaf, as darker lettuces tend to house the most nutrients.
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Add Moderate Amounts of Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are naturally high in fiber, healthy fats, vegan-friendly protein, and numerous health-promoting phytonutrients (phenols and phytosterols), which are collective known to support heart health. For salads, you have a wide variety to choose from including almonds, walnuts, pecans, chia seeds, and flaxseeds. Although all nuts and seeds are rich in valuable nutrients, they’re also relatively high in calories so be sure to monitor your portions.
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Create a Colorful Cruciferous Concoction
You can add a little texture and a whole lot of nutrients to any salad by including cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, bok choy, and red cabbage. These veggies contain large amounts of isothiocyanates and indoles, which are potent cancer-fighting phytonutrients that are released when they are chewed. Cruciferous vegetables are also incredibly low in calories so go ahead and indulge freely without the guilt.
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Satiate Yourself with the Ole “Meat” Group
You can greatly boost the overall filling effect of your salads by adding a serving or two of poultry and/or fish to the mix. By doing so you’ll also get substantial doses of B-vitamins (B6 and B12), selenium, and muscle-building protein. Just three ounces of skinless poultry or fish houses a whopping 20-25 grams of protein. Some of my personal favorites for salads include chopped chicken breast, salmon and shellfish like shrimp and langostino lobster.
RECIPE: Hearty Chicken Cobb Salad
Give It a Greek-Like Twist
Greek salad is traditionally made with ingredients like tomato, cucumber, onion, olives, and olive oil. It just so happens that these make nutritious add-ins for virtually any salad. While the reddest tomatoes are an excellent source of the cancer-fighting carotenoid lycopene, combining the other ingredients will give you a substantial dose of healthy monounsaturated fats, B-vitamins, vitamin K, iron, and copper.
Incorporate Colorful Roots and Peppers
Root vegetables and bell peppers should never be forgotten when preparing salads. Some top choices include carrots, beets, parsley, red and orange peppers. These vegetables are among the richest sources of beta-carotene, which helps to boost your immunity and ward off ailments ranging from heart disease to the common cold. Beets themselves are also rich in betaine, a potent antioxidant known to enhance liver health and protect against high blood pressure.
RECIPE: How to Make a Traditional Conch Salad from Scratch
Make It Berry Sweet and Delicious
Berries make great sweeteners for salads, as they contain high amounts of natural sugar. Whether you prefer blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, strawberries or raspberries, all varieties house large quantities of fiber and water-soluble vitamins. They also contain an abundance of flavonoid antioxidants, which that are capable of scavenging disease-promoting free radicals. If you’re not a fan of berries, try other sweet fruits like pears, apples, or oranges.
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Experiment with Complementary Proteins
Whether you’re trying to go meatless or simply boost your amino acid intake, there are many nutrient-dense complimentary protein options for you to incorporate into your salads. These include whole eggs or whites, high-quality soyfoods (edamame, tempeh, or tofu), and natural cheeses (feta, Gorgonzola, and cottage cheese). Eggs, edamame, and Gorgonzola cheese are among my personal favorites—I can’t even eat a salad that doesn’t include at least two of these.
And there you have it—Eight exciting and delicious ways to build a healthy salad! Without a doubt, salads make a great food choice for calorie counters and weight watchers alike but they don’t have to be boring. By following these simple tips you’ll get all the daily nutrients you need in a fun and creative way without piling on the calories. Need more ideas? Try my “Ultimate Salad for People Who Hate Salads“.