When we say "I had a salad for lunch" we often mean that we didn't eat a lot or we are eating healthily (or both). However, not all salads are created equal. If you want to step up your game, here are a few things to keep in mind...
ONE OF EACH COLOR
Fruits and veggies have their colors thanks to phytonutrients, which are natural chemicals found in plant foods. These chemicals are individual to each food and have powerful benefits to our bodies. In order to make sure we get the most out of our salads, we should incorporate one fruit or vegetable of each color group:
RED (anti-cancer and heart diseases) - Pomegranate, tomato, red berries, watermelon, red grapefruit, blood orange
PURPLE/BLUE (anti-aging) - blueberries, grapes, purple sweet potato, eggplant, plum
ORANGE/YELLOW (good for immune function) - carrot, lemon, pumpkin, squash, banana, papaya, melon
GREEN (detoxifying)- kale, spinach, lettuce, collard, kiwi, avocado
WHITE (good for arterial function)- onion, radish, garlic, cauliflower, mushrooms, fennel
SEASONAL IS BEST
This is probably something you've heard before. Often we go for fruits and vegetables that are not available in season because of their many benefits. However, buying strawberries in February is not that beneficial to us. In-season produce is fresher, tastes better and keeps more nutritional value since the phytonutrients are not deteriorated by long transportations or not gassed/irradiated to prolong its shelf life. Last but not least, it's often cheaper because it's usually local and storage costs are kept to the minimum.
DRESS IT (S)LIGHTLY
You've heard this as well, but it is true that too much dressing adds unnecessary fats and calories to your already nutritious salad. Stick to one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, a splash of lemon juice/vinegar and a pinch of salt and you'll have a flavorsome dressing. If you want to spice things up and make them more oriental, use one tablespoon of tahini, a splash of soy sauce/tamari and a bit of vinegar.
POWER TO THE HERBS
If you are used to more complex flavor in your dressing and you need an extra oomph in your salad, add some herbs. Not only they'll add another dimension to your veggies, but they have lots of benefits. Parsley is a blood cleanser, for example. Cilantro (or coriander) and peppermint help digestion. Chives reduces cholesterol and blood pressure. Personally, I love adding one handful of cilantro. It makes everything taste even better.
SPRINKLE SPRINKLE LITTLE SEEDS
Seeds add more texture and more healthy fats to your salads. Linseed, sesame, hemp, poppy, sunflower, pumpkin seeds are all great to add and they're widely available in any supermarket. My absolute favorites are sesame seeds, even better if roasted slightly. One only thing about smaller seeds...they get stuck between your teeth and it's not always a great addition if you're eating on the go and you don't have the time to wash your teeth. So, before you smile at a work meeting, have a quick check in the mirror or on your phone!
Salads should be fun to make. Be creative, make full use of all the seasonal foods out there and...bon appetite!