Spice Up Your Salads

When considering eating healthy, many people immediately think of iceberg lettuce and light dressing. But salads don’t have to be boring! What makes salads a fun (and delicious) way to eat healthy is trying different food combinations when the same old toppings get tiresome. Salads are a great way to get your daily recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. Adding protein like beans, eggs, or meat can upgrade your salad from starter to a full meal.

When you think salad greens, don’t just stick with basic iceberg lettuce. There are many different leafy green foundations for your salad bowl, such as romaine, cabbage, kale, and baby spinach.

Many supermarkets sell bagged combinations, including spring mix, superfoods, or other bagged salad kits. Buying bagged greens means you don’t have to chop and wash those leafy greens, optimizing your salad-creating time and making it easier to try new combinations.

Getting creative with the dressings you top your salads with can also boost the taste and nutritional benefits. Bottled salad dressings are good for a quick fix, but many of them have a lot of added sugar and calories, so be sure to check nutritional labels.

Buy a shaker bottle and experiment with different fresh combinations. There are even salad dressing shakers out there with recipes right on the bottle. Combining oils like extra virgin olive oil with citrus (lemons, limes, oranges) or vinegar and other ingredients like poppy seeds can add a splash of healthy fats and vitamin C to your salad.

Here are some salad combinations to try and spice up your greens.

  • Spinach or kale, apple chunks, walnuts, dried cranberries, and blue cheese crumbles with a vinaigrette dressing
  • Romaine lettuce, hard-boiled egg, Parmesan, and a creamy dressing like Caesar
  • Leafy greens, roasted corn, crumbled Cotija cheese, red onion, chicken, salsa, ranch dressing, and fresh cilantro
  • Spring green mix with pickled vegetables, egg, turkey, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, and a splash of oil and balsamic vinegar

All of these combinations can be adjusted to your specific likes and dietary needs, and the possibilities are endless!

Not All Salads Have To Be Leafy!

If you aren’t feeling green, you can try other types of salads and still get awesome health benefits. Fruit, grains, or pasta can take the place of a leafy green base and still excite your taste buds. Fruit salads don’t have to be just a bowl of chopped fruit.

  • Mix sweet and sour fruits with different colors and textures. Pickling the fruits can also infuse new flavors into your bowl.
  • Add toppings like honey, seeds, crumbly cheeses like feta, and herbs like mint or spices like cayenne.
  • Try different dressings, from typical sweet and creamy dressings made from milk or yogurt, to tangy with citrus, oils, vinegars, and other ingredients like poppy seeds.

Pickled Power

Pickled foods are great additions to any salad to bump up the flavor profile and add nutrients. Pickled foods include anything that has been preserved through fermentation in a brine or vinegar. Pickling or brining fruits and vegetables adds a tang that can really punch up the taste of any salad, and they’re a good source of probiotics due to the fermentation process.

Many people just think about pickled cucumbers, but everything from fruits to vegetables, meat, eggs, dairy, and fish can be pickled. Try pickling foods like strawberries, watermelon rind, onions, jalapeño peppers, apples, peaches, avocados, and tomatoes to get the health benefits from eating these foods with an extra kick of flavor.

Up Your Grain Game

Building your salads around different grains is another way to change up how you eat healthy. Grain salads might include:

  • Quinoa
  • Bulgur
  • Farro
  • Rye or wheat berries
  • Couscous
  • White, brown, wild, or jasmine rice

Be sure you prepare your grains properly, whether they require soaking or cooking. All of these grains mix well with many vegetables and dried fruits. Adding other toppings like chickpeas, nuts, or beans pumps up the plant-based protein and fiber to keep you fuller longer.

If you’re an omnivore, try adding chicken, steak, bacon, or pickled fish to balance out your bowl. Pasta can also make a satisfying base for salad toppings.

Go Greek with cooked whole-wheat rotini, Kalamata olives, cherry, or grape tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, red onion, herbed feta cheese crumbles, and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add some chicken to make it a complete lunch.

Take a sweet and savory route by mixing your pasta with red grapes, broccoli, onion, pecans, and bacon with a red wine vinegar dressing.

For cooking tips and education, visit www.carsontahoe.com/nutritionalfacts.