Hey, ladies and gentlefolk! We are now two weeks into our annual extravaganza, our New Year’s Weight Loss Challenge! How are you holding up? Are you losing pounds like nobody’s business? Are you struggling a bit? Are you so sick of that lunchtime salad that you’re ready to throw in the towel?
In honor of Meatless Monday, and knowing that many many of you are eating salads galore these days to spur your weight loss efforts on, I thought I’d talk a bit about how to build a better salad. If your lunchtime salad consists of a cup or two of lettuce, an out of season, tasteless stand-in for a tomato, and a bottled fat-free dressing, you’re doing both yourself and your salad a disservice. Man does not live by lettuce alone, as the old saying goes!
- Tip #1 – if all you’re eating for lunch is a salad, it had better be a SALAD! Make it HUGE! The more greens you can take in, the better for you, and the better for your waistline. My typical lunch salad includes about 3 cups of greens.
- Tip #2 – iceberg is just the tip of…. well, the lettuce iceberg. I’m not dissing iceberg lettuce – it has a place in your salad repertoire. But from a nutrient perspective, the darker the greens, the more power they pack. And iceberg lettuce? Not so green. Mix it up! Romaine, bibb, spinach, kale, bags of baby mixed greens. All delicious, all good for you. Remember, not just a couple leaves. CUPS!
- Tip #3 – add a variety of fresh, raw veggies, according to your personal tastes and what’s in season. Unless you have a really good grocer, you might be better off holding off on that tomato for now. But what about shredded carrots, mushrooms, red onions, red and yellow peppers for color….
- Tip #4 – add a protein source. If this salad is your main meal, you need it to hold you for more than an hour. Being noble and eating a 200 calorie salad for lunch, only to be followed up in two hours by a hot gooey sticky bun and a huge cappuccino to give you the energy you’re lacking, isn’t being noble. Now, as it’s Meatless Monday, I’m going to encourage you to add 1/2 to 1 cup of beans to your salad. My preference is for chickpeas, but whatever floats your boat! If you’re going to add meat (not today, of course!) please make wise (read: unprocessed) choices.
- Tip #5 – add a grain! Now I don’t always do this, but adding some cooked brown rice, or quinoa, or bulghur (my current fave!) can make a huge difference to your satiety level. Cubed, cooked sweet potatoes work well, too. I always add these warm, which is especially satisfying during cold winter months.
- Tip #6 – make your own dressing. You control what goes into your body. Period. I’ll be back in my next Meatless Monday post talking about my five favorite homemade salad dressings.
- Tip #7 – special add-ons can make a salad A SALAD. A sprinkling of pine nuts, a bit of dried fruit, fresh herbs, leftover roasted brussel sprouts. If you’re talking higher calorie add-ons, like the nuts or dried fruit, go easy. A half cup isn’t going to taste any better than a tablespoon or two, and your calorie counter will thank you. But these add-ons will take your salad from pretty good to newsworthy in a flick of the wrist.
So there you go, my tips for making a nutrient-dense salad that will see you through the long afternoon. Tell me, how often do you eat salad? Does it look like your mama’s salad, or like mine?