Is eating more fruits and vegetables part of your goals this year? Then what could be more appropriate than including a salad with lunch or dinner to meet that goal and help reach the number of servings suggested by the USDA?
At this time of year, the fresh produce that is usually enjoyed in the warmer months may not be plentiful. But don't lose hope. Salads can be much more than head lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
If greens are your choice for a well-made salad, go for variety. Make the base of the salad tasty and nutritious by combining different types of greens. Consider golden endive, chicory, arugula, red-purple radicchio, escarole, spinach, and beet greens. These leafy choices will add vitamin A, C, K, folate, and iron to your daily intake.
Next consider healthy additions that add color, texture, and even more nutrients. The list is as inclusive as your imagination. In the veggie category try canned versions of artichokes, olives, kidney beans, chickpeas, and corn. Avocadoes add healthy monounsaturated fat, and cooked sweet potato and winter squash contribute magnesium and vitamin A (in the form of beta carotene). Or, toss in leftovers from a previous meal.
How about a bit of sweetness? Dried fruit such as cherries, raisins, and dates work well in salads. Clementines or navel oranges, canned pears and peaches, or chopped apples are other tasty additions from the fruit category.
For a hearty salad that doubles as a meal, add healthy protein sources. Consider low-fat, cooked meat and poultry including turkey, chicken, round steak, and pork loin. Deli meats are convenient, but read the labels to identify the lower sodium choices. Chopped nuts, canned beans (all sorts including soy beans or edamame), and canned tuna and salmon are other satisfying additions to a salad. For the adventurous ones among you, tofu and quinoa can offer new tastes and textures.
What about dressings on those greens? A healthy salad can be made less so by smothering the ingredients with high-fat or high-salt dressings. Use a light hand when pouring the dressing, or put a small amount in a side dish to dip into with fork tines before spearing the greens. Read labels to find dressings that contain healthy fats such as olive oil and reduced sodium. Or, make you own. Check out these links for make-at-home versions.
Other salad favorites are the side dishes made with a creamy base, such as mayonnaise. These can be high in fat, depending on the amount and type of mayonnaise used. Consider instead plain, fat-free, Greek yogurt as a healthy base for this type of salad. Mix together chopped apples, your choice of dried fruit, and yogurt. Top with a sprinkle of chopped nuts. Or, layer the ingredients in a tall, stemmed glass or parfait and sprinkle some cinnamon on top. This makes a great dessert.
With a little imagination salad combinations can be endless no matter what time of year it is. Try something new and different today.
The articles written by Andrea Wenger, Birmingham Diets Examiner, are for informational purposes only and are not to be used in the place of medical advice. Please contact a licensed physician or other medical professional before changing any health care routine or before starting any diet, fitness, or exercise program. Although every effort has been made to include the most current information, new information is released daily and may cause some recommendations to change.