Summers are all about SALADS right? (Come on, don’t say wrong!) Salads aren’t just boring bowls of leaves, they are delish and notoriously nutritious and may just be what the doctor orders for fresh eating this summer. With gardens finally producing you may just wonder how you can best use your homegrown goodness, and we have a plan. This plan isn’t plain or bland! Keep reading to see what awesome salads you could be eating all summer long with an easy to follow 3 steps for salad success.
Step 1: pick your base! The base of your salad can be a lot of things and often those are greens: lettuce, spinach, kale, etc., but they don’t have to be! Your salad base could be cucumbers, zucchini strands, thinly sliced peppers or even brown rice or quinoa. Try new bases for variety and fun! Maybe arugula or even shredded carrots can provide a nice change!
Step 2: TOPPINGS! This is the best! Loading on veggies is a given but what else can you add other than traditional garden toppings like cucumbers and tomatoes? Ummm, hello! Just about anything. Some salad favorites you may have forgotten about are grilled veggies! Grilled onions, peppers and even corn really add some fun to your feast. Pickled veggies can also add a burst as well, from pickled beets to carrots, try something new that might spice up your taste-buds. If you aren’t sure where to start, think of adding as much color as possible! Radishes, celery, berries, apples, pears, cranberries, broccoli, cabbage, peas, shaved asparagus and even grilled zucchini can offer you some new taste sensations to keep you satiated this summer.
Step 3: Protein! Add a portion of protein to your salad! If you are meat free, don’t stress! Peas add protein as well as garbanzo, kidney and black beans. Pescatarian? Tuna, salmon and shrimp all bring in a good dose of protein. As always chicken, turkey, grilled lean pork and steak are tasty toppings too. Other sources of protein may include nuts, avocados and cheese. Better yet, instead of one big chunk of meat, take smaller portions of different things like chicken, cheese and nuts or tuna and garbanzo beans.
You’re probably thinking we missed a step and you’re right! But dressing is really a whole category of its own. How you dress your salad is up to you and you probably have a go to dressing. If you are buying dressing in a bottle and maybe still not in love with it, try making your own. Most dressings are easy enough to make right at home with little effort and super cheap. Take a shot glass if you have one and that will help you with a perfect portion size too! A classic salad dressing recipe would suggest 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar but…come on…you can lighten that up can’t you? Try using less and less oil as you go, especially if you have higher fat toppings on your salad. Try one of these dressings:
1 tbsp. oil, 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar and a big squeeze of fresh lemon and grated garlic
1 tbsp. oil, 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar with a tbsp. of chopped shallots and salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp. oil, 1 tbsp. vinegar of your choice, a big squeeze of orange and some grated ginger.
Have some fun this summer by trying new salads. If you want them to last longer keep your toppings separate from your base and only use dressing on the portion you plan to eat. Some people also portion their salads into mason jars. If you do this you put your dressing on the bottom and then layer with your step 3, then step 2 and step 1 on top so it stays nice without getting soggy. Salads are a great vehicle for getting in lots of fresh ingredients and may just be your ticket. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to making a salad and you can always jazz it up a different way next time. We hope you are having a fit and healthy summer so far and that you make it even better by celebrating summer salad season!
Mary Hoadley-Director of the Wellness Center