Salad is the first thing that comes to our mind when we think healthy food. It’s everybody’s go to when they’re headed down the road to good health. But you must understand that not every salad is a healthy salad, especially if you load it with creamy dressings, fat-rich meats, and hidden sugars in the form of bottled dressings – all to make the bowl of greens and raw vegetables palatable!
The bad news is that all salads are not healthy. But the good news is that healthy salads don’t have to be boring and unappetizing. Not if you follow our 4 steps to build that bountiful and wholesome salad.
1. Begin with a bulk of greens
About 3/4ths of the volume of your entire salad should be greens. Assorted greens are a rich source of folic acid, lutein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. When you fill up on greens, there’s less room for the high-calorie stuff. Choose deeper, darker greens as they tend to be higher in their concentration of required minerals and vitamins. Spinach, Amaranth, Lettuce, Rocket, Kale, Beet, Radish are great forms for greens that can be eaten raw and had as a salad.
2. Add colour minus the starch
Next, in go the colourful vegetables. Aim to get in as much colour as you can, which ensures that you have a mix of all kinds of nutrient – carotene from carrots, lycopene from tomatoes, vitamin C from yellow and red peppers. The great news is most of these veggies are low on starch. Feel free to include: beets, peppers, red cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, sprouts, onions, peas, mushrooms and broccoli, but stay away from deep fried vegetables. Roasting and Steaming is a good way to add some flavor and semi-cook some of the veggies.
3. Pack in the protein
Bulking your salad up with the right amount of protein can make a meal of your bowl of salad. Whether you choose boiled eggs, lightly pan-tossed tofu, a handful of cooked legumes or lentils or even sprouts from beans, you can up, not just the fibre and protein count of your salad, but also add extra flavor and make your salad a lot more palatable.
4. Dress your salad in style
The dressing is usually what makes or breaks a salad. It is easy to get carried away and choose a creamy one which is usually much richer in taste, but it also comes packed with unwanted calories. A simple vinaigrette, though full of heart-friendly oil will also have the added calories; but is a better option than a creamy ranch or mayo-based dressing. Always have your dressing on the side so you can control how much goes into the salad. A good balance of oil, citric (lime, vinegar), salt, pepper, some spice (mustard, herbs) is usually a good way to go. A lot of times, you can omit and oil altogether. The lemon, herbs and peppers are good enough to give the salad a good pike and taste.
With this basis, it’s easy to build a basic or a complex salad. To prevent mundanity, you could throw in a little bit of cheese on those indulgent days, add some seasonal fruit for sweetness, switch to a different protein, sprinkle nuts and seeds for crunch, add in sprouts for more power, throw in noodles or pasta and get your carbs too. Once you begin to use your imagination, you’ll see you can go weeks without having to repeat a salad!