It’s a great time to give your salads a powerful boost by choosing nutrient-rich ingredients. Salads don’t have to be boring, tasteless diet foods. With the right base, toppings and dressing they can be main-dish stars or sides your friends and family will go crazy over.
1. Choose a powerhouse green for the base. Kale and spinach are two great options, offering up loads of vitamins and minerals. However, if you prefer milder lettuces like romaine and iceberg, give butter lettuce a try. It is loaded with vitamins and minerals and offers sweet tender leaves that need very little dressing to be enjoyed. Butter, Bibb and Boston are all part of the Butterhead variety and can be used interchangeably. Keep in mind that some salads don’t include leafy greens at all.
2. Go for color. The pigments that make mangos orange and blueberries blue are actually powerful antioxidants that help protect the body from disease and damage. A colorful salad will provide a wide variety of nutrition; and it will be more appealing to the eyes. Mangos, which are the dietitian pick for the month of May, contain more than 20 vitamins and minerals, making them a great addition to any salad.
3. Power up with lean protein. Emerging research supports protein timing. Consuming 25 to 30 grams of protein at each meal throughout the day can help with fullness and weight control. A three-ounce portion of fish, beef, chicken, pork or turkey will provide around 25 grams of filling protein. Canned albacore tuna is convenient, economical and an excellent source of omega-3 fats. High-protein vegetarian options include cottage cheese, edamame, eggs, beans and lentils. Keep in mind that while nuts offer a great source of heart-healthy fat, a serving only offers four to seven grams of protein.
4. Add a healthy crunch. Instead of croutons and bacon bits, opt for nuts and seeds. What nuts lack in protein, they make up for in nutrition. Pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and almonds are top food sources for magnesium, a mineral many people are deficient in. Magnesium plays a key role in healthy bones, sleep and metabolism. Nuts contain omega-3 fats for heart health, fiber for fullness and potassium for lowering blood pressure.
5. Dress for success. Your dressing can make or break your salad when it comes to the final calorie count. Salad dressings can range from 25 to 240 calories per two-tablespoon serving. Bolthouse Farms dressings taste great, and are all under 45 calories per serving. For a simple homemade vinaigrette, mix two parts flavored vinegar with one part olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. While many culinary sources recommend a higher ration of oil-to-vinegar, the ratio above will significantly reduce calories, while maintaining flavor.