Who doesn’t love a good salad? It’s easy to throw together and fun to play around with different varieties. But if fitness and nutrition are your goals, you want to make sure your salad checks all the boxes for a well-rounded meal.
Start with power greens like spinach, chard, kale or arugula. These will serve as the foundation of your salad, but the variation in taste between different types of lettuce will make a dramatic difference in how the other ingredients you add taste. Greens are a great way to get good fiber and anti-oxidant benefits out of your salad.
Add some color and crunch. There are so many options here. Some of my favorites are tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli and cucumber. These are simple, low calorie options that add texture and flavor. If you want to spice things up even more, try adding some raw onion for a real power punch. Since many of these vegetables contain a good amount of water, they keep you full for longer.
Pick a filling protein. My favorites are grilled chicken and turkey. I like to cut them into small pieces so they mix well with the other ingredients. For those seafood lovers out there, grilled shrimp or even salmon are excellent choices and don’t forget about beans and tofu for those who live a vegetarian lifestyle.
Regardless of the protein option you choose, adding protein to your salad will feel more like a meal and help provide the nutrients your body needs to build muscle.
Add in a healthy fat. Remember not all fat is bad. Our bodies actually need fat to support brain functioning and provide the nutrients for healthy skin, nails and hair. Healthy fats include avocados, nuts, coconuts flakes and even olives.
Sprinkle in a fun and nutritious topping. Here’s a great way to alter flavor if you are a frequent salad eater. I typically get addicted to a specific topping for a while only to eventually get tired of it and start a new obsession. For a fruity flavor you can create a summer style salad by adding berries or pomegranate seeds. I’ve even seen people add seasoned herbs and my kids love sunflower seeds and flax seed. There is no wrong combination and you can add as many different combos as you like. Feel free to experiment and enjoy!
Choose your topping. Avoid store bought salad dressings which are typically very high in sodium, even when they are marketed as low fat. I always make my own salad dressings and one of my favorites is a dressing my grandma used to make for me which is very simple, but does not compete with the other flavors in my salad and tastes amazing. I add some lemon juice, olive oil and salt in a cup and stir before drizzling onto my tasty greens.
You can create your own version and alter the ingredients depending if your preference is citrus, vinaigrette or even pesto.