Image by: adoproducciones
By Robert Spencer
Did you know that May is National Salad Month? If you had asked me a couple of years ago I would have said, “I hate salads. They’re dainty and unfulfilling. It’s just rabbit food. No flavor…” You get the picture. I wasn’t a big fan. I’ve since changed my tune after I began to watch my caloric intake and eat healthier. Salads don’t have to be dainty either. They can be hearty, filling, and meaty as long as you know what you’re doing.
#1) The Hearty Salad
When you think of salad, what generally comes to mind? Vegetables, right? But not just any vegetables – that green, leafy stuff. It could be spinach, it could be lettuce, it could be arugula. It could even be that purple-y stuff (radicchio). However, that’s just 1/4th of a healthy salad.
A healthy and hearty salad comes in four different parts: the leafy stuff (lettuce, radicchio, spinach, tomatoes, etc.), the other plants (tomatoes, fruits, carrots, etc.), protein (beef, eggs, ham, cheese, bacon etc.), and dressings (don’t go too heavy on the dressings though).
Hit all four parts and you should have a salad fit for any guy. Of course, within these four types of ingredients, you can come up with thousands of different combinations.
#2) The Leafy Stuff
I was going to call this section “the leafy green stuff” but radicchio just had to get in there and mess that up. Anyway, there are plenty of different choices in this category. Normally, you’re just served iceberg lettuce but let’s face it, iceberg lettuce tastes like paper. And why bother eating a salad if you’re not going to get the healthy benefits that other salad greens can give you. Iceberg lettuce gives you no vitamins or minerals at all. It’s basically water in leaf form – plus it tastes like paper. Instead, opt for one of these:
Arugula (also called Italian cress): It’s a little peppery, less bitter, and is in things like pesto. It’s got soft leaves with rounded edges.
Romaine (also called cos lettuce): You normally see these on hoagie buns (and in Caesar salads) because each leaf is about the size of a hoagie bun. It’s green and stiffer than most of the other greens on this list.
Endive (also called Belgian endive): It’s white with a little bit of yellow around the edge of the spoon shaped leaves. It’s a little bitter (which adds to the flavor).
Radicchio (also known as red chicory): It’s reddish purple and comes in either a head, already cut up in bags, or in spoon shapes like the endive. When you cook it, it tends to turn brown and gets sweeter.
Baby beet greens: These are known for its red veins and green leaves. They’re a bit spicy unless they wilt a bit, then they get sweeter.
#3) Other Plant-Stuffs
When I make my salads, I normally pile on the other vegetables. You can put practically any vegetable (or fruit) in a salad. Try some of these to add more texture and another level of flavor into your food:
Sliced or cubed apples
Sliced and pitted olives
Sliced bell peppers
Other dried fruits like cranberries and raisins
Vegetables are great but they never tied me over until my next meal. That’s why I add extra protein in there to help me feel full (fiber works great too so look for additions that are high in fiber – like berries, nuts, and beans).
For protein, I usually put in bits of bacon and ham, unless I’ve got leftovers from dinner the night before. Then you’ll find me adding sliced steak or pork in there. You can also grill up some chicken. If you’re going healthy, opt for grilled chicken breast over the breaded stuff. Seafood is a great option too. Try shrimp, salmon, halibut, or tuna.
Try to avoid meat that’s flavored or has extra sauce. All of that extra stuff will add calories and (if it was prepackaged that way), probably has a lot of sugar in it as well.
Eggs are also a great addition. Hard boil some eggs to add to your salad. You can chop them up or just slice them into a few pieces.
Cheese is a great addition. I’m not a big fan of blue cheese but I heard that it works best in salads. I’m a cheddar man myself, but feel free to use whatever kind of cheese you’ve got.
Nuts and seeds are great additions and they add fiber as well as protein. Sunflower seeds are my favorite but you can also add pecans and walnuts.
I’m a fan of dressing but that’s normally where all of the calories are in a salad. Instead of buying the bottled store stuff, make some of your own. All you need is some extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper.
The portions really depend on your taste but if you need a base recipe, here you go. One part vinegar, three parts olive oil, spoonful of Dijon, pinch of salt and pepper. Pop all of that in a jar, shake, then store in your fridge. You’ll have to shake it up every time you want to use it (the oils tend to separate).
Also try adding different herbs (fresh or powdered). Try onion or garlic powder. You can also try some Italian seasoning.
The best part about salads are the fact that they are actual foods. They’re not made of processed foods (at least, not if you make your own dressing). They’re also pretty easy, quick, and healthy.