How to Build a Non-Boring Salad
Expanding your salad repertoire can help you eat salads throughout the year without getting salad fatigued. Use this list of ingredients as your cheat sheet to a healthy salad. Be bold and try new combinations, keeping the right balance of nutrients and calories for your nutrition plan. You might just find your new favorite salad recipe. Look for the “bonus nutrition ingredients” below for my favorite powerhouse nutrition choices that combine macronutrients in one ingredient.
Lettuces, Greens, and Veggies
Don’t limit yourself to think of salads as just a bed of iceberg or romaine lettuce, chopped veggies, and a dressing. First off, there are many different types of lettuces and greens to add interest. But also, venture out when it comes to the preparation—try your favorite salad as a lettuce wrap or add different veggie textures like spiralized, steamed, toasted, grilled, or sauteed. Just take carrots, for example; chopped, shredded, spiralized, grilled, or sautéed carrots will all offer you new salad tastes and enjoyment.
Lean Protein Power
Chicken, mild-flavored seafood, and tofu are great places to start. You might think you have tried every chicken combination, but have you ever tried orange chicken salad wraps? Keep reading to see the recipe. Mild-flavored seafood (like shrimp) and tofu (try out sautéed tofu) are great because they both take on the flavors in your dressing. Also, getting pre-cooked seafood is a great time saver.
These sources of high fiber are considered complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates support balanced blood sugar, which gives you even energy for long after your meal is finished. Maintaining a balanced blood sugar will also help reduce high-sugar cravings.
Rice and grains: Wild rice is fantastic to batch-cook in advance and keep ready to add to any salads. Also, some rices and grains freeze well, so you can portion them out in advance and freeze for when you need them, saving time meal prepping.
Pasta: Ever crave pasta but feel guilty eating a whole plate of carbs? A great alternative is to add whole grain pasta to your salads. It will satisfy your craving and get you a variety of nutrients.
Root vegetables: Personal favorites are sautéed sweet potatoes, beets, turnips, and carrots. They add not only complex carbs but also delightful color to your salads.
Fruit: Sweet and savory is my favorite flavor combination. Adding fruit like apples, pears, or orange or clementine segments can really make a salad burst with flavor.
Bonus nutrition ingredients: Legumes, pulses, and beans of all sorts are a delicious way to get a variety of complex carbs but also additional protein. With so many options, there’s no way you will get taste fatigue.
Fullness with the right fats
Dressings: Dressings are the perfect opportunity to get inventive with your flavor combinations. Start with a simple base of olive, grapeseed, or avocado oil and then add the spices, an acid (like vinegar or citrus fruit juice), and ingredients that excite you.
Avocado: Avocado on salads just can’t be beat in my opinion. But ever try puréeing avocado into a salad dressing? It is a great way to make a dressing “creamy” without adding a fat source with saturated fat, like cream.
Bonus nutrition ingredients: Nuts, seeds, fatty fish, and egg with the yolk: Adding all of these ingredients to your salads is a great way to get both some fats and protein at the same time.
Need some ideas? Here’s a recipe to get you started.
Orange Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps (Serves 2)
3 cups shredded carrots and cabbage
1 Tbsp. peanut sauce
1 Tbsp. sunflower seeds
1 cup cooked chicken breast (try sautéed tofu or soybeans as an alternative)
½ cup orange or clementine segments
Butter leaf lettuce (will be used for the wraps, so keep the leaves whole, rinsed, and dried)
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard vinaigrette
Steamed brown jasmine rice
On medium heat, sauté the carrots and cabbage with a splash of avocado oil (or what you have on hand) until lightly browned. Add peanut sauce to the cooked carrots and cabbage and toss. Add the sunflower seeds and chicken and toss again.
Take the mix off the heat. Next, separate orange segments and chop into ¼-inch pieces.
To serve, fill each lettuce leaf with your veggie, chicken, sunflower, and peanut sauce mix. Top with your vinaigrette, orange segments, and any additional options you choose.