Salads are one of the most versatile foods out there, but for some reason they just don’t get the respect they deserve. Sure, you can toss a few handfuls of greens with dressing and call it a day – but you can also enjoy a salad as a meal on its own by choosing unique and colorful ingredients packed with nutrition and flavor. Here’s how, according to Registered Dietitian Michelle Smith:
Salads are the stars of meal prep and there are multiple ways to incorporate them into your week:
- Prepare salad ingredients the night before work or school, assemble the meal in the morning and take it to go in a durable food storage container.
- You can also create a trio of mason jar salads to last you half the week.
Balance your bowl
Salads have come a long way. You can toss in your favorite foods and/or blend the ingredients with your preferred ethnic cuisine in a way that provides a delicious number of macronutrients, vitamins and minerals. Satisfy both your taste buds and nutritional needs with the following guide:
1. Begin with a base
The foundation of your salad should consist of about two cups of vegetables. These don’t necessarily have to be leafy greens. Choose what you love!
RD recommendations: Shredded carrots, shredded cabbage, kale, arugula, spinach, romaine lettuce and/or zucchini noodles.
2. Go for whole grains
Bulk up your bowl by including whole grains, which adds fiber to the meal to increase feelings of fullness and satiety. Aim for 1/3 to 1/2 cup cooked grains. You can also toss in whole-grain pita chips or organic corn tortillas. Just stick to the serving size.
3. Pick pops of color
Top your bowl with colorful, vibrant vegetables that complement the flavors of your meal. Aim for ½ to 1 cup veggies, shooting for at least three different picks.
RD recommendations: Artichokes, beets, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato, corn and mushrooms.
4. Pack in the protein
Many tend to miss this piece for the puzzle, which unfortunately makes for a pretty unbalanced entrée salad. Aim for ½ cup beans, 4 oz. tofu or tempeh, ½ cup cooked bean-based pasta or a handful nuts or seeds.
5. Drizzle with dressing
Dressing – it’s the best way to meld all the delicious flavors together! Prepare a homemade dressing (which can be as simple as combining olive oil and vinegar) or a store-bought variety that’s low in sodium and sugar. Lightly drizzle over your ingredients and toss. Avoid drowning your quality add-ins with too much dressing and allow yourself to enjoy the individual textures and flavors that make up your salad.
Making your own dressings also allows you to add other foods such as spices and herbs to enhance the taste of your meal. Fresh cilantro, a dash of cumin, pieces of roasted garlic or a healthy helping of nutritional yeast.
RD recommendations: Salsa, hummus, olive oil and apple cider vinegar and/or lemon juice.