Spruce Up Your Salads

by Kari Hartel, RD, LD
Program Coordinator, Cooking Matters, Operation Food Search

Eating salads can be a great way to make sure you’re getting your recommended daily servings of vegetables, but sometimes eating the same lackluster salad day in and day out can leave you feeling bored. Here are some tips to help you amp up the flavor and nutrients in your salads.

Vary Your Greens
Rather than sticking to the same type of lettuce for the base of your salad, vary the type of lettuce each time. You could also use a combination of lettuces and greens. Try to combine a lettuce that is delicate and sweet, such as butter lettuce, with a heartier, thicker, more robust lettuce or green, such as romaine or kale. These contrasting textures and flavors will excite your taste buds.

Get Health Gains by Adding Grains
To make your salad a well-balanced, one-dish meal, try adding some cooked, cooled whole grains. Cooked, chilled brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, wheat berries, barley, and other whole grains will add fiber, vitamins, and minerals as well as a delicious flavor and chewy texture.

Make Your Own Salad Dressings
Bottled salad dressings that you find in stores can be loaded with sodium and sugar. Rather than relying on store-bought salad dressings, make you own versions from scratch and store them in the fridge in small glass jars with screw-top lids. Follow this basic ratio: two parts olive or canola oil, one part acid (vinegar, lemon or lime juice, or Dijon mustard), salt and pepper, and your favorite herbs and spices.

Switch up Your Proteins
While grilled chicken breast is a tasty topper for salads, it can get a little boring if it is always your go-to protein pick. Get adventurous with your protein source. Top your salad with grilled salmon or albacore tuna, which loaded with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Marinated grilled tofu adds a hefty dose of vegetarian-friendly protein. Another vegetarian protein pal is beans, which are loaded with protein, fiber, iron, B-vitamins and minerals.

Don’t Forget About Fruit
Fresh or dried fruits can add natural sweetness and brightness to your salads. Berries work exceptionally well, as do citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit. Apples, especially Granny Smith, add a crisp texture and tart flavor that pairs well with vinegar-based dressings. Dried fruits are easy to add and provide a sweet, chewy element.

Create Some Crunch
Texture makes a huge impact on how satisfying a dish can be. Crunchy ingredients will pair well with the soft texture of lettuces. Toss in some nuts or seeds, which are chock-full of beneficial minerals, protein, and healthy fats. Think beyond the typical almond slices – throw in some roasted pumpkin seeds or soy nuts. Skip the boring store-bought, nutritionally-void croutons and create your own from old whole-grain bread.

Operation Food Search is pleased to be the beneficiary of Schnucks Markets, Inc.’s seventy-fifth anniversary gala on May 15th in the Khorassan Ballroom of the Chase Park Plaza. To join in this celebration, please contact Karen.Klaus@OperationFoodSearch.org for more information.