When I make a salad for myself—whether at home or at a salad bar—my aim is much like my aim with the smoothies I make, which is to get as much healthy nutritional content as possible and still have a yummy salad. I think it’s pretty easy to do. For many years I’ve been surprised every time I realize how many people think that as long as the word “salad” is attached to something that automatically makes it equate with both “healthy” and “diet”.
I’ve watched so many people at a salad bar who load up with the pasta salads and make a tossed salad with a tiny bit of ice berg lettuce and big piles of ham, turkey, several cheeses and croutons and finally pour about a cup of thousand island or some other cream based dressing on it. And then they’ll talk about how virtuous they feel for being good and eating salad. That salad is basically a giant grilled ham and cheese sub with some lettuce and dressing on it. Still thinking healthy and low cal?
To make a healthy salad you have to think in terms of foods that are good for you in any circumstances. So vegetables, legumes, nuts, fresh or dried fruits,seeds, and greens like mesclun or baby spinach, sprouts, etc. are all good choices. I like to think in terms of things that are easy to get and easy to find on good salad bars as well.
I’m not going to give amounts because I just eyeball and vary amounts of the ingredients and the size of the salad from one time to another. I don’t necessarily use all of these every time but sometimes I really do have all this stuff on one salad:
mix of mesclun and baby spinach
shredded or chopped carrots
broccoli slaw (not dressed) or broccoli florets
¼ to ½ avocado diced (that’s salad for one)
sliced or slivered almonds
dried cranberries, raisins, currants or craisins (or whatever dried fruit you prefer)–best unsweetened or get a dehydrator and make your own
garbanzo or kidney beans or edamame
sometimes I throw on a little chopped hard boiled egg and/or bacon bits but mostly not
in season I slice tomato from my garden but I’m really fussy about fresh and tasty in tomatoes so there are rarely any on my salad…
spelt sesame sticks for a little extra crunchy goodness
If I want more protein content I throw a pile of tuna on it and mix it in or grill a piece of chicken or salmon and slice it on.
On the “eat a rainbow” every day theory, this hits a lot of your colors and gives you nutrition from lots of sources. The combo puts in plenty of yummy flavors. To be honest I’m not a great lover of raw broccoli or cauliflower but if every bite of one of those has some vinaigrette on it and a cranberry and a slice of almond or a mandarin orange and a garbanzo bean and a sesame stick, suddenly it tastes really good. And my body feels so happy after I eat one of these.
All those salads full of pasta and dairy products and jello and mayonnaise—not healthy nor low cal/fat. Just calling something a salad doesn’t make it good for you or good for a diet. Some restaurant salad bars don’t actually have much on them with which to build a healthy salad but a lot of salad bars offer enough of the good stuff to make yourself a tasty and nutritionally jammin’ salad.