Today marks the end of National Nutrition Month and we’re saying farewell with a staple for most health-conscious diners, salad. Ashley Girt, registered dietitian-nutritionist, shows us that making this go-to as a side or entrée can be as simple or creative as you like. Toss in tasty, leafy greens, lean proteins and all your favorites for a fast meal loaded with nutrients.
Given their versatility, salads are a great option for lunch, dinner or a snack, and pack the potential to deliver a wealth of vitamins and minerals. They can be incredibly convenient as well. Plan ahead and assemble a colorful salad the night before so you can grab and go in the morning. Packing the dressing separately keeps the dish fresher for longer.
When creating a salad, think of building it in four layers:
The base for your salad is going to be greens. These leafy rock stars are full of vitamins and minerals, and low in calories. When starting your salad, steer toward mixed greens, kale or spinach. Lettuces such as iceberg are crunchy, but provide little nutrients.
It’s time for some protein. Think of lean choices, such as grilled skinless chicken, lean cuts of beef, and even salmon! Additional protein can be added using nuts, such as walnuts or pecans. Though nuts are a healthy protein alternative, it is important to be mindful of your portion sizes, as nuts are higher in calories and fat.
For toppings, choose fresh fruits and veggies to bulk up your custom salad. Cheese, though a popular pick, can add a significant amount of calories and fat. Choose a lower fat option like mozzarella or feta.
Finally, opt for a light balsamic vinaigrette over calorie-laden ranch or blue cheese. Depending on the salad, you may not need any dressing at all!
Ready to put this lesson to use? Try this sweet-meets-savory for a smart lunch or dinner.
Quinoa, Chickpea and Apricot Salad
6 cups arugula, or other dark leafy green
1 cup cooked quinoa
8 ounces chicken, or other lean protein
1 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 small avocado, cubed
¼ cup dried apricots
¼ chopped chives
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
Juice of 1 medium lemon
1-2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons cumin
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1. In a large bowl, layer the Salad ingredients.
2. Using a blender or bowl and whisk, combine all of the Dressing ingredients.
3. Pour the Dressing over the Salad, toss and enjoy!
Each serving provides 340 calories and 18 gm protein!