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How to Build A Better Salad

With summer being in full swing, lighter meals like salads are at the top of the healthy meal choice list. Unfortunately, typical salad toppers like creamy dressing, bacon bits, croutons and macaroni salad can turn your bowl of green goodness into a calorie-fest. However, that doesn’t mean you should be left with just a bed of leaf lettuce either. There is a better way to make a salad that doesn’t involve heavy, calorie-filled dressings and the same boring ingredients. The best salads combine flavour and lots of good-for-you ingredients without being over the top in calories.

Here Are Six Steps to Build A Better Salad! 

Step 1:  Start With a Leafy Base

Just because you are eating salad doesn’t mean you are limited to boring iceberg lettuce. In fact, this lettuce doesn’t offer much more than water. Try adding a dark, leafy green that is loaded in nutrients, vitamins, minerals and rich in antioxidants. Good options are romaine, leaf lettuce, spinach, mixed greens, arugula, frisee, mache, endive, radicchio, baby beet greens, butterhead lettuce or kale. The list is endless!

A Few Leafy Options: 

  • Mixed Greens  ⁠
  • Leaf Lettuce⁠
  • Romaine ⁠
  • Arugula⁠
  • Frisee⁠
  • Mache⁠
  • Endive⁠
  • Radicchio⁠
  • Baby Beet Greens⁠
  • Butter Lettuce⁠
  • Kale⁠
  • Spinach⁠

Step 2:  Add a Complex Carb

You don’t have to limit yourself to just greens in your salad base. Try adding a complex carbohydrate to your greens for extra energy and fibre. Good options are cooked grains such as quinoa or couscous, or even whole-wheat pasta, soba or the low-carb Shirataki noodle. Starchy vegetables can also be a good option, such as cooked and diced potato or sweet potato. Keep calories in check by opting for smaller serving sizes of about ¼ cup.

Pick One or a Few Carbs:

  • Quinoa⁠
  • Bulgur⁠
  • Couscous
  • Whole Wheat Pasta
  • Brown Rice⁠
  • Soba Noodles⁠
  • Rice Noodles⁠
  • Shirataki Noodles
  • Potato
  • Sweet Potato
  • Pumpkin⁠

Step 3:  Add Colourful Veggies & Fruit

Load up on colorful vegetables, such as bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots, red or green onion, cucumber or even beets! Vegetables provide soluble fiber, vitamins and minerals. In addition to antioxidants, tomatoes offer up lycopene, while carrots provide beta-carotene! Fruit can also be a good option; strawberries and blueberries can add sweetness, while green apple slices can add tartness. And if fresh fruit isn’t your fancy, opt for a teaspoon or two of your favourite dried fruit such as naturally sweetened, dried cranberries, blueberries or raisins.

Endless Veggies & Fruit Options:

  • Tomatoes
  • Capsicum
  • Mushrooms  ⁠
  • Shredded Carrots⁠
  • Spring Onion⁠
  • Cucumber⁠
  • Broccoli⁠
  • Cauliflower ⁠
  • Beets⁠
  • Sweet Potato⁠
  • Pumpkin⁠
  • Asparagus⁠
  • Brussel Sprouts⁠
  • Strawberry⁠
  • Apples⁠
  • Blueberry⁠
  • Watermelon⁠
  • Mango⁠
  • Blood Orange⁠
  • Grapefruit
  • Dried Cranberries, Cherries, Blueberries
  • Dried Apricots
  • Raisins

Step 4: Pick a Protein

Adding protein takes your salad from an appetizer to the main course. Plus, protein provides your muscles what they need to stay lean and tight! Not to mention, protein offers up a satiating effect, reducing hunger between meals. Chicken is an obvious choice, but it’s not the only one. Try grilled steak, canned or fresh fish such as salmon or tuna. Vegetarian protein options are black beans, garbanzo beans, chick peas or marinated cooked tofu!

Protein Choices:

  • Chicken⁠
  • Steak⁠
  • Mince ⁠
  • Salmon⁠
  • Tuna⁠
  • Tofu⁠
  • Black Beans⁠
  • Chick Peas⁠
  • Falafel⁠
  • Eggs⁠
  • Feta⁠
  • Halloumi
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    Want a Hot Protein Bowl instead?  Go here!

    How to Build A Protein Power Bowl

Step 5: Choose a Flavour

You don’t have to opt for the same boring salad dressing every time you have salad. There are other options other than fat-free Italian! The dressing can completely change the flavor on a salad. Whenever possible try to make your own. All you need is a shaker bottle, a few tablespoons of good-for-you monounsaturated oil, vinegar or citrus juice and some herbs, and you are good to go! Olive oil can be a great base for Mediterranean-style dressings, while sesame oil can provide an option for an Asian style dressing. Add in fresh or dried herbs like basil, oregano, cilantro or tarragon. You can add some zest by using lemon, orange, grapefruit or lime juice or a specific flavor of vinegar such as balsamic.

Pick Your Dressing & Flavours: ⁠

  • Cilantro⁠
  • Mint⁠
  • Basil⁠
  • Dill⁠
  • Balsamic Vinegar⁠
  • Lemon, Orange or Lime⁠
  • Soy ⁠
  • Apple Cider Vinegar⁠
  • Rice Wine Vinegar⁠
  • Tahini ⁠
  • Yoghurt ⁠
  • Olive Oil⁠
  • MCT⁠
  • Coconut Oil ⁠
  • Sesame Oil ⁠

Step 6: Finish it With Something Crunchy

Nuts and seeds are a great way to finish off an amazing salad, and are a great alternative to traditional croutons! There are many options when it comes to nuts such as pecans, walnuts, peanuts, almonds or even pine nuts. Nuts can be eaten raw and natural or can be toasted for a slightly different flavor. As for seeds, opt for poppy, pumpkin, sesame or sunflower. Nuts and seeds are full of good-for-you fats, and are high in fiber and antioxidants. Just watch the portion sizes. A single ounce of almonds provides 164 Kcal and 14 grams of fat.

Pick Your Topping:

  • Roasted Almonds, Walnuts, Pecans, Pistachios⁠
  • Roasted Peanuts⁠
  • Roasted Pine nuts⁠
  • Pumpkin Seeds⁠
  • Sunflower Seeds⁠
  • Poppy Seeds⁠
  • Chia Seeds⁠
  • Flax Seeds⁠
  • Toasted Coconut ⁠

Until Next Time,

Be Fierce & Rule the World!

Lauren Jacobsen

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