When most people hear salad they assume healthy. However, if the wrong toppings are added to salads, they can be high in calories and fat. People will often tell me they don’t eat salads for meals because they leave them feeling hungry. Remember, not all salads are created equal and salads can be a satisfying meal option.
5 of the reasons I love salads (I could go on, but thought I would stop at 5):
- Salads are a great way to get your food groups in at meals
- They don’t get boring because you can make them different each time
- They travel nicely making them a great option for lunch at school and work
- Allows you to get a variety of important vitamins and minerals
- While I do not mention grains in my salad building tips below. Salads are great vehicles for athletes to add grains such as faro and quinoa when they are looking to add carbohydrates to their meals
Today I am going to share with you my tips for creating a healthy salad.
Tips to building a healthy salad:
Step 1: Choose a lettuce as the base. I recommend choosing mixed greens, spinach, arugula or kale. These dark leafy greens are packed full of nutrients. A combination of these greens works great too!
Step 2: Add as many veggies as you like. Stick to raw, steamed or roasted and avoid any vegetables in sauces or oils. Think carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, broccoli, mushrooms, asparagus, brussels sprouts, cabbage, tomatoes, and peppers. People don’t often think about starches when building a salad. Vegetables such as sweet potatoes and butternut squash are starchy vegetable options, and I recommend limiting starchy vegetables to one.
Step 3: Choose 1 lean protein source.* Some proteins to try include beans (chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans,) lentils, chicken, turkey, steak, tuna, meatballs (chicken, turkey, beef), tofu, vegetable burgers, falafel, and hard boiled eggs. Choose grilled, baked, or roasted and avoid fried options to save on calories.
*1 protein source is a good rule of thumb. However, it is ok to mix and match smaller portions of two proteins to equal 1 portion. For example I like to have 1 hard boiled egg with chickpeas.
Step 4: Choose 1 healthy source fat. Some sources of fat to consider include cheese (feta, goat, mozzarella), olives, nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, peanuts), seeds (sunflower, pumpkin)
Step 5: Choose your dressing. Remember dressings can be high in calories and fat. I recommend putting the dressing on the side so that you can control how much goes onto your salad. Balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar and lemon juice are low calorie options.
One of my favorite combinations:
Lettuce: Mixed greens
Vegetables: carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, sweet potato
Protein: 1 hard boiled egg and chickpeas
Dressing: Balsamic vinegar on the side (sometimes I also add some hummus)