We all know eating vegetables is the secret to being all around sexy (aka living a vibrant, healthy life). So, let’s start with the basics of how to build an amazing salad so being sexy and eating deliciously is always in reach!
But first, here’s what NOT to do.
- Don’t eat iceberg lettuce – this doesn’t count as a leafy green. Shaking my nutritionist head over here.
- Don’t make it boring. Like lettuce + tomatoes + onions and drizzle with olive oil (unless you love this combo). And then declare you don’t like eating leaves based on that experience.
- Don’t skip the dressing! We need the healthy fats (like olive oil) to absorb the bounty of fat soluble vitamins in the salad. Fat also gives flavor, and helps us to feel full and satisfied. Mmmm.
- Don’t overload the dressing either! Fresh ingredients need not be covered up. And you could be adding in unnecessary calories.
- Don’t assume all salad dressing is healthy. Please, please, read your ingredient labels. Avoid any salad dressing with canola, soybean, safflower oils in them. Lean on clean brands like: Primal Kitchen, Chosen Foods, Tessamae, and Organicville. Or make your own at home with a high quality extra virgin olive oil as the base.
- If you’re making an entree salad, don’t skip the protein. Or you will be hungry in an hour.
- Don’t eat raw leafy greens and veggies if your GI system is in a healing state. You may not be able to digest it well. Instead try a bed of tender greens like arugula and spinach and add steamed, roasted, or sauteed veggies atop. A warm salad is still a salad!
- Don’t eat raw salads in the colder months. A little raw is ok (listen to your own body, always) but generally speaking, we should stick to warming and slow cooked foods in the winter.
- Don’t force yourself to eat salads if it makes you hate the world. That’s no way to live, right? Take a moment to learn inspiring new ways to build an amazing salad.
How to build an amazing salad
Greens! Choose tender leaves like spinach, spring greens, bibb or butter lettuce. Add in spicier greens like arugula or chicory. And bitter ones like dandelion or mustard greens. I like to chop these up finely and add them to other greens in small amounts so it’s not the dominant flavor. Only use hardier greens like kale, collards, or chard if they are sliced finely, massaged, or cooked. Mix a couple different types of greens! Bonus: toss in fresh herbs like dill, cilantro, or sorrel. I love the combo of basil and mint. You will not regret it adding herbs.
Add vegetables. I like to add at least 3 different colors. Yes, think in colors! They can be raw, roasted, grilled, or pickled. Finely chopped purple cabbage and grated carrot are a couple favorites for crunch and a pop of color. Roasted red bell pepper or cherry tomatoes? Shaved raw radish? Tangy pickled red onions? Leftover grilled veggies from last night’s dinner? The variations are endless.
*Tips: Make extra veggies for dinner and save them for salad toppers for lunch the next day. Pre cut veggies early in the week and put them in glass or clear storage containers so 1) you can see how beautiful they are and 2) they’re ready to be added to a salad in no time. Pre-cutting veggies is one of the best ways to have a strong meal prepping game.
For a fuller meal, be sure to add starchier veggies like roasted squash, potatoes, rutabagas, beets. Or add a scoop of wild rice or quinoa if you like grains in your salads.
Add protein. If this is a side salad and your meal already has protein, you can skip this. If it’s an entree salad, adding protein is a must. Here are a few options: hard boiled eggs, canned tuna, salmon, sardines, grilled chicken, meatballs (why not), steak, bacon, ground beef or turkey (think taco salad!), deli meat, sliced chicken sausage, roasted chickpeas, white beans, black beans, falafel, lentils, grilled halloumi cheese, shrimp, crab meat, tuna steak, seared salmon, airfryer tofu, or tempeh. You get the idea!
*Tip: make extra protein at dinner time and save it to add to your lunch salad the next day.
Toppings! We all love a little crunch. Toasted nuts and seeds like pumpkins seeds, cashews, almond slivers, pistachios. Sprinkle on hemp hearts or cocoa nibs. Juicy pomegranate seeds or blueberries. Avocado for that creamy, satisfying goodness. A bit of croutons, pita chips, corn chips (non GMO) if you that’s your thing.
Dressing. You can buy one of the store bought ones mentioned above or make the simplest dressing of olive oil + raw apple cider vinegar if you’re a minimalist.
One of my go-to dressings is this one:
1/4 raw apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 tsp sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp raw honey
Fresh chopped herbs (optional)
Shake it all up in a mason jar and use it on salads for the next few days.
So here’s the deal: you can add anything to your salad that you want. Just make sure there are ingredients in there you really look forward to eating. Do yourself a favor by pre-cutting or pre-cooking the toppings ahead of time so you always have delicious ingredients to make a dreamy salad within reach.
And take note on how you feel eating fresh, vital, nutrient dense foods. Our bodies crave colorful vegetables and fruits and can thrive if given the opportunity to do so. It doesn’t matter to me whether you’re an omnivore or vegetarian. Eat in the way that’s right for you. But do be plant forward and regularly include plenty of colorful veggies in your day (less of the starchy ones).
What would happen if you enjoyed a salad once a day? Or filled half your plate with veggies 2 of 3 meals per day? Even for a week?