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Most people have the misconception that Vegans only eat salad! False!.
This would not leave us with enough calories or healthy fats to sustain a balanced diet.
Did you know that, on average, a vegetable salad holds about 200 calories? This is nowhere near enough to leave you feeling comfortably full or getting you all of the nutrients you need. I admit even though I enjoy a leafy plate of greens, vegetable salads can leave me feeling a little hungry afterward.
Salads are a great meal because they require very little preparation, are one of the healthiest things you can eat, and they can be stored away for later. If made correctly, a salad should give you everything you need out of a typical meal: vitamins, antioxidants, and nutrients. In other words, you can not go wrong.
In a simple green salad, you are free to add as many non-vegetable ingredients as you like: nuts, beans, cheese substitutes or whole grains, to name a few. I have stronger cravings for salads in the summer, so that’s when I like to really shake things up with new, satisfying flavors.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, like adding fruit to your veggies for combating flavors. The combination of sweet and fresh is plentiful, tasteful and healthy. Sauce, dressing, and spices are also important for flavor and conformation with your taste buds. The best part about a salad is that you can make it as personalized as you like.
Greens don’t have to be your main focus. Salads come in many different varieties: vegetable salads, classical salads, fruit salads, mixed salads, simple salads, etc. And you can’t forget about pasta, potato, quinoa, macaroni, and bean salads. You can even discover your own version of your favorite salad, all it takes is a little experimentation with new ingredients and flavors.
Now, let’s have a little fun. Here are a few ways to make your salads more lively and invigorating.
Don’t punish your poor taste buds by relying on only one type of leaf for your salads. Use a combination of different base lettuces and try them out. Different types of leaves provide your body with different benefits. For example, kale is a great source of vitamins A, C, and K, but can have a bitter consistency. To complement the bitterness I would mix some iceberg lettuce to add a sweet flavored crunch. Some other base greens I would recommend trying are mache, frisée, radicchio, and escarole.
Herbs from your local farmer’s market are an excellent way to add robust flavors to your leafy base. Herbs help create an adventurous blend of flavors in your mouth. If you want to add an additional layer of flavor while also increasing your nutritional intake I would suggest adding one or a combination of my favorite herbs: dill, cilantro, basil, mint, or parsley.
Building an interesting salad will always keep your taste buds guessing. “Am I going to bite into something soft or crunchy?” is a question you should ask yourself every time you take a bite. Your salad should be the ideal combination of crunchy, sweet, savory and creamy. You may have a great base of greens, but you always want to add some texture! For more of a creamy feel, add an avocado. To complement the creaminess of an avocado I would recommend adding some nuts, or crunchy and light veggies like cucumber, celery, and carrots.
Get creative because nothing is more boring than a bowl of greens with no substance. A salad doesn’t have to be made with a lettuce base, but you should take advantage of the different types of salads you can think up: pasta salad, bean salad, quinoa salad, or even a potato salad. Starchy salads will give you energy for a longer period of time and keep you feeling full!
Couscous, lentils, quinoa, and brown rice will help add texture to your salad but also give you the energetic boost you will need to get through the day. Supergrains are full of vitamins and fiber, minerals and vitamins that are not only good for you, but will leave you feeling full, help improve digestion and redistribute your body fat.
Nuts are an ideal way to balance out your salad. I know people may be allergic to nuts, but for those who are not, adding nuts to your salad provides a great source of filling protein. If a protein boost isn’t enough to convince you to add nuts to your salad, studies have shown that a handful of nuts a day can increase the overall health of your heart.
Fruits do more than just add pop colors to your salad. Not only will they make your salad more aesthetically pleasing, but their sweetness is a fine way to balance the bitter taste of greens. Vitamin C found in fruits like oranges and fresh berries also helps iron absorption from greens like kale and spinach. However, not all fruits should make it into your salad bowl. Be weary of dried fruits, as they are usually preserved with extra sugar and are all around unhealthy snacks.
Do not douse your salad in dressing, I repeat, do not douse your salad in dressing! Not only does too much dressing take away from the flavor of your salad ingredients, it is full of added calories that you don’t need. I’ve always been a proponent of fat-free and oil-free dressings. My favorite dressings include hummus, lemon/lime juice, frozen fruits mixed with vinegars, and salsas.
So there you have it, 8 ways to spruce up your salad. I can’t wait to see what creations you come up with! Here is one of my videos with some pointers on how to prepare your salad for the week.