Summer’s the best time for salads – but, buyer beware. Ordering salad at a restaurant or quick serve establishment can wreak havoc on your summer figure. Cheese, loads of meat, and croutons are just a few of the waist-bulging add-ons. I calculated 1,200 calories were in a salad from a local hospital lunch hangout many of my patients ate. “But I eat a salad every day,” they cry out when the scale inched upward, not down. I’ve watched these Greek salads being assembled: 2 c. ice berg lettuce, half a tomato, a few slices of cukes, then 2 handfuls feta cheese, another handful of chopped ham, and another cup of croutons. Then, doused with a bucket of Greek salad dressing. Seriously. A bucket.
How can salads be exciting and thrilling main dish meals? Grab your salad bowl and layer it 4 times high.
Foundation: The bottom of the bowl is a reservoir for green. Try mixing mesclun and baby spinach. Or grill romaine hearts with a side of black beans, thawed frozen corn and avocado (yummy with a cumin-lime vinaigrette). Scrunch a bunch of chopped raw kale with the juice of a lime and a teaspoon of salt as the bed for sweet mango fruit, purple onion, avocado, and a sweet raspberry vinaigrette. Boston lettuce is groundwork for diced tomatoes and avocado.
Crunchy and Munchy: In this layer, add red, yellow and orange bell pepper, thinly sliced cucumber, vine ripe tomatoes, kalamata olives and capers for a hint of saltiness, fresh corn kernels, radishes, blanched green beans, mandarin orange slices, blueberries, purple or Vidalia onion, any and every veggie or fruit you like that’s bursting with flavor. You can create themed salads – California salad with buttery Boston bibb lettuce, diced avocado and tomatoes blended with lemon juice – no need for dressing as these juicy ingredients create their own.
Power it up: Veggies alone do not support the cape of super hero strength. Protein adds to satiety, builds strong tissue. Depending on the flavors you seek, top with diced eggs, marinated tofu, nuts like almonds, walnuts and pecans. For meat lovers, grilled chicken, salmon, or tuna steak add delicious flavor and heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids (canned tuna is great in a pinch). Grains and starch give long-lasting powerful energy – think sliced boiled red potatoes, grains like quinoa and bulgur, and chickpeas (that can pinch hit for protein, too).
Don’t forget to top it all off with a healthy dose of good fats – salad dressings made with olive oil. Get on the Internet, pull out your cookbooks and make your own!
Summer time farmer’s markets and CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) abound with freshness. Local supermarkets boast local produce as well. What’s holding you back?