It’s easy to get stuck in a salad rut. Out of habit, you reach for the staples you’ve been using for years – tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and croutons. Each bite is boring and you feel unsatisfied and hungry at the end.
Time to toss things up! Mix and match the following items according to your mood and taste buds to make dynamic and satiating salads. Stir everything together for a complete meal or use a few of the ingredients for a rewarding and healthy side dish.
Start with greens. Skip iceberg lettuce, as it’s low in flavour and nutrients. Instead, use arugula, spinach or red-leaf lettuce for the base of your salad. “Arugula and spinach are dark leafy greens and they contain chlorophyll, magnesium and iron, so you get a lot of nutrition from them,” says Marni Wasserman, a Toronto-based natural personal chef and holistic nutritionist.
Load up on vegetables. Make your salad look like a rainbow by using different coloured veggies. This adds visual appeal to your meal and ensures you get a broad range of vitamins and minerals. Jicama (a white-flesh root veggie that’s sweet and crisp), carrots, shredded beets, celery, cucumber and chopped baked sweet potato are some of Wasserman’s favourites.
Sprinkle on seeds. Every great salad needs a bit of crunch. To add texture and taste to your greens, use a tablespoon or two of sesame, hemp or pumpkin seeds. “They provide healthy essential fats, iron and calcium,” says Wasserman. Or try the same amount of chopped walnuts or slivered almonds. Seeds and nuts are better choices than croutons, which are often fried and made with unhealthy refined carbohydrates.
Mix in beans. Kidney and black beans, lentils and chickpeas supply iron, B-vitamins, protein, cholesterol-lowering fibre and flavour. Toss 1/4 to 1/2 cup of legumes onto your salad. Put off by their gassy reputation? Buy organic canned varieties, because they’re preserved with kombu – a sea veggie that helps reduce the effect of raffinose, which is an indigestible sugar that leads to gas, says Wasserman. Or use raw sprouted legumes, as they rarely cause stomach upset because they contain live enzymes that help with digestion (they’re also crunchy and yummy).
Include fruit. To make your salad sweeter and juicier, include 1/4 to 1/2 cup of summer fruit, such as strawberries and blueberries. (They’re high in antioxidants and immune-boosting vitamin C, too!) Dried fruit, such as raisins, goji berries or cranberries, also work well. If you prefer something that’s a bit tart and crunchy, try half a granny smith apple.
Go for grains. Filled with fibre, B-vitamins and magnesium, cooked whole grains give salads exciting texture and delicious flavour. Try 1/4 to 1/2 cup of barley, quinoa or wild rice.
Add creaminess. Avocadoes infuse salads with richness, smoothness and nutrients. “They provide so much vitamin E and essential fats and they satiate you, so they help make your meal more filling,” says Wasserman. Slice on about 1/4 to 1/3 of an avocado.
Created by Marni Wasserman, this salad makes a delicious and nutritious side dish. If you want to enjoy it as a main meal, try adding some grains or beans.
1. Combine the dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
2. Put salad ingredients into a large bowl. Pour dressing over salad and toss until well coated.
*Recipe courtesy of Marni Wasserman
Aileen Brabazon is a freelance writer based in Toronto who's work has appeared in glow, Hello! Canada, Viva, Oxygen, Rouge and on homemakers.com. Her favourite things to write about are nutrition, alternative health and green living, which isn't a surprise considering she's also a certified holistic nutritionist. Between writing, helping clients improve their diets and wellbeing and teaching children with autism, Aileen loves to cook organic foods, hike in nature, volunteer at Evergreen Brick Works farmers' market, unwind with yoga and meditation and dance to Stevie Wonder and Al Green. You can reach Aileen at firstname.lastname@example.org.