Salad does not always mean healthy dish. Some delicious salads are packed with calorie-loaded dressings, cheesy and fried toppings rather than green healthy salads that are easy to digest.
Salads can still be delicious and healthy without or lesser of those greasy and calorie-packed ingredients. We just need greens, some vegetables and fruits, protein, healthy dressings, and extra ingredients like grains and nuts for crunchy element, and may be cheese! Combinations and balance are up to our individual preferences.
We are giving some useful tips on the basic ingredients to make salad for healthy heart and well-being!
Fresh Green Greens
Greens are powerful building block of healthy salads because they give us essential nutrients such as lutein and folic acid. Go for dark green lettuces such as kale, arugula, Romaine, and spinach. It has been proven that kale rich in calcium and high in fiber. If you prefer to eat them raw, slice it very thin and drizzle them with dressing, rub with hands, and let it stand for several hours. You will see that the leaves soften.
Add some fresh herbs such as cilantro, parsley, or fresh dill, may be radicchio, mixed greens, and cabbage as they contain powerful antioxidants, and at the same time, these herbs give us some unique tastes.
Those powerful greens combined with some fresh vegetables will somehow provide us with 25 calories. Opt for different varieties of vegetables in terms of colors, like red bell peppers, red onions, broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, carrots, beets, celery, artichoke hearts, Jicama, mushrooms, peas, Brussels sprouts, radish, olives, and fennels. Do you know that fennel rich in anethole, a compound which helps lower risks for some cancers, stops inflammation, and improves digestion.
Just make sure they are raw or may be lightly steamed veggies. Avoid frying vegetables or soaking them with greasy marinades. Stick to raw and simple ingredients.
Avocado, berries, pomegranate, grapefruit, apple, pineapple, orange, kiwi, mango, melon, and stone fruit are great addition to salads. They give us vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Avocados are known to be rich in Vitamin E that can shield our body tissues from deteriorating by blocking free radicals. Vitamin E is also known to produce red blood cells, improve the circulation of oxygen in our body, and remove body’s cells of wastes. Pomegranate seeds is loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances that may help protect our hearts from diseases including high cholesterol, heart attack, and hypertension.
And yes, remember to add some proteins into our salads. That makes it a complete meal! If you prefer animal protein, you may choose one lean source like 4 egg whites, or 3 ounces of skinless chicken or turkey breasts, wild salmon, tuna, lean sirloin steak, or a water-loaded chunk light tuna. Other good options are roasted tofu, tempeh, beans, eggs, edamame, Prosciutto or lunch meats.
If you are a vegetarian, select three-quarter cup of pinto beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, or other legumes, or half cup of cubed tofu. Avoid those processed meats such as salami and bacon. Shun away from frying or drenching ingredients in strong sauce.
If we are in a hurry, we can get pre-cooked chicken breasts, or whole rotisserie chicken, and dice or shred the meat. Store it in the fridge for our next salad time!
Good choice of grains like quinoa provide us with full protein. Quinoa is cooked like rice. Kamut and freekeh are strange names but they give us 4 times of protein than brown rice. Kamut is rich with antioxidants.
Other grains we can add to our healthy salad are wild rice, buckwheat, bulgar wheat, wheat berries, spelt, pearled barley, millet, and farro.
Go for nuts, sunflower seeds, chia, toasted quinoa, hempseed, and popcorn! When popcorn is cooked without any oil or butter, it contains no saturated fats and sodium. Avoid those pre-packed microwave popcorn bags!
Mozzarella, Bleu cheese, goat cheese, feta, pesto, and sundried tomatoes add special flavor to our salads. However, make sure that we go for only one tablespoon serving of these ingredients to keep our sodium and calories in check.
Healthy Salad Oil and Dressings
Dress up our salads lightly. Other people love salads with heavy dressings. However, heavy dressing may remove some of freshness and nutritive value of our dish. Take note that 1 tablespoon of an average vinaigrette gives us about 80 calories, while 1 tablespoon of creamy ranch dressing gives is about 100 calories. If we are dining out, restrict our use of dressing to 1 and half tablespoons for entree salad, and 1 tablespoon for side salad.
Let us opt for light, low-fat or low-calorie dressing. Light vinaigrette may mean one part oil and 3 parts of vinegar with some mustard, 100% fruit jam, lemon, or added spices for flavoring. Olive oil, avocado oil, walnut oil, and hazelnut oil are good picks.
We can make our own salad: Mix on a small jar, one-fourth cup acid, one tablespoon emulsifier, three-fourth cup oil, and one to two teaspoons of flavorings(optional) or herbs. Mix them thoroughly and they are ready to go! This recipe will give us a dressing for one big salad. Store it in the fridge for about one week.
For some acidic elements to our salad, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, rice wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and red wine vinegar are good choices.
Healthy Ranch – 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp parmesan, ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 small clove garlic (finely minced), ½ tsp dried dill, pinch of pepper and salt
Honey Mustard Dressing – 1 tbsp mustard yellow or Dijon, 2 tsp honey, ½ tbsp lemon juice, ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt, water to thin, if needed
Balsamic Vinaigrette – 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp Dijon mustard, 8 tbsp olive oil, pinch of pepper and salt
Emulsifier as Stabilizer
Emulsifier is a blend of two or more unmixable liquids like vinegar or oil to aid in keeping emulsions or dressing from separating. Choose mashed avocado, greek yogurt, mustard, and ground flax.
Herbs and Other Flavors
Just select one extra element for our salad: basil, honey, rosemary, dill, parsley, red pepper flakes, chives, and oregano. Watch out for those with high calorie and fat levels, and therefore, they may be added sparingly.
Watch this video on how to prepare an authentic Greek Salad.
Go for fresh and simple dishes with loads of nutrients, vitamins and minerals for a better and longer life!
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