Who said that salads need to be another bowl of boring green leafy greens? Who said that salad is an obligatory appetizer? Probably people who make these connotations have never thought to transform their salad into a complete meal.
Greens yes, but which?
The very first ingredients to add in a salad are leafy greens. Of course the most common choice is lettuce! Two cups of chopped lettuce contain the entire amount of vitamins A and K needed per day. An even better solution is spinach which is an excellent source of vitamins A, K, C and magnesium. Other good options are arugula, cabbage, radicchio, broccoli, cucumber, peas and Brussels sprouts, or a combination of all of the above. Do not forget that along with green vegetables you can mix finely chopped herbs such as parsley or dill.
- Extra tip: If you do not have the time to chop veggies during the week, you can make a big batch during the weekend. Pre-cut greens from the supermarket are another good and easy solution.
Then add some colorful vegetables…
Your salad doesn’t have to be just green! Consider how each vegetable contains a combination of individual nutrients, giving its unique properties and color. Add something red (tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, peppers, radishes), something yellow or orange (corn, peppers, carrots), something purple (onion, cabbage, beets, eggplant) and something white (mushrooms, cauliflower). Now imagine a bowl full of green, red, yellow, purple and white vegetables, looking like a real rainbow!
Cereals: the energizers
The truth is that croutons provide texture and flavor to salads, but also add extra calories and fat.
- To toast some pita bread and cut it into pieces.
- To crumble half Cretan “dakos”.
- To experiment with new flavors such as oats and quinoa. Quinoa offers a unique combination of plant based protein and carbohydrates. Cook it like rice and add some flavor by garnishing with a cool dressing.
- Use brown rice, which is more nutritious than the refined white type. Additionally, brown rice has a nutty flavor. You can start by adding half brown and half white rice, until you get used to the flavor.
- Add 1/3 to ½ of a cup cooked grains per person in your salad.
Its time for protein
Proteins are absorbed gradually by the stomach and thus keep us full for longer. The options are many, including chicken, tuna, salmon, cheese and of course red meat. Salad pairs beautifully with vegetable protein sources such as legumes, beans and chickpeas. Eggs are another option, but be careful if your cholesterol levels are elevated and if that is the case do not add more than 1 egg yolk. For crispier texture and the health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids mix some nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, pistachios). If nuts are salted you do need to add any extra salt.
Can fruit fit in your salad?
The answer is yes! Fresh or dried, fruit will add a sweet, juicy texture and a bunch of vitamins.
The dressing is important
Did you know that salad dressings can even double the calories?
Therefore you must choose wisely.
Stick to one teaspoon of olive oil per person.
- Add as much lemon or vinegar (balsamico, apple cider vinegar, etc.) as you want.
- To thicken your dressing use yogurt, mustard, hummus, or avocado paste.
- Give extra taste by adding 1 tablespoon honey, cinnamon, pepper, garlic, herbs.
The goal is to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, and a heart healthy salad will surely bring you closer to that!
1. USDA Nutrient Datablase for Standard Reference. Τελευταία ανάκτηση 11/9/ 2014.