When I meet with clients, in addition to filling out a nutritional assessment form, I ask them to provide me with a food journal of their previous week. The food journal can be very useful as it tells me about their eating habits – what foods they typically eat, how they feel when they eat certain foods, when they eat, how much they eat, etc.

Today let’s discuss the secret superstar of at least one meal per day, the humble salad. Salad is an often-overlooked dish, but nutritionally it is the hero, packing in a load of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Often nibbled on as a side, it’s the salad that could leave you feeling cheerful and ready to go for a stroll rather than slump on the sofa for a nap.

Here are some salad-building tips to make your salad, or salads, both nutritious and delicious.

  • Start off your salad with some leafy greens like romaine lettuce, or baby spinach. You can add in some cabbage for the crunch and the health benefits of cruciferous vegetables. They have powerful antioxidants which research has shown protect against several types of cancer (breast, colon, prostate), and help lower LDL (“bad cholesterol”) in the blood that can build up in arteries and cause heart disease. I like the purple cabbage for it’s vibrant colour.
  • Add raw vegetables of your choice. Some ideas are tomatoes, peppers, radish, carrots, cucumber, snap peas, celery, avocado, and beets. While cooking beets enhances their minerals, they lose most of their vitamin A, vitamin C, and B-complex when cooked, so in addition to eating cooked beets, use them raw in your salads. Beets are known to have a cleansing effect on the liver, aid in digestion, and can help combat general weakness.
  • You may want to add some cooked vegetables, such as steamed green beans, oven baked red onions, or grilled red peppers and Portobello mushrooms. As you are selecting your raw and cooked vegetables consider their colours. A salad with a rainbow of colours is more appetizing, and indicative of a vast array of nutrients.
  • For added sweetness, colour, and nutrients, you can add some fresh fruit to your salad. Try pomegranate seeds, blueberries, sliced mangos, pears, apples, peaches, or grapefruit and orange sections.
  • To make the humble salad into a centerpiece of your meal, add protein, like baked wild salmon fillet, grilled chicken breast or hard-boiled eggs. Alternatively, the protein could come from plant sources like chickpeas and brown, kidney beans, lentils, and edamame.
  • And to make it satiating add some cooked starchy food to your salad.  Consider baked potato or sweet potato cut into chunks, brown rice, quinoa, farro, or any other whole grain.
  • Nuts and seeds add crunch and enhance the nutritional content as they contain healthy fats. The Journal of American College Nutrition found that those who ate nuts gained numerous benefits compared to non-nut eaters including a decreased prevalence of selected risk factors for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Try sliced almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, sesame seeds (both white and black), pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or hemp hearts. Combine your favourites to create your own salad topping. Limit these to no more than 2 tbsps daily if you are trying to lose weight.
  • Most people will agree that the dressing is key – it can make or break the salad. Avoid bottled dressings as they often contain poor quality oils, excessive sugar and preservatives. Try making your own dressing. A great base is olive oil and lemon juice. This can be a dressing on it’s own, or you can add any herbs of your choice, fresh garlic or minced onion. Or use our Samurai dressing below for an Asian-inspired flavour.

A hearty salad full of nutrients will leave you satiated without feeling like you overdid it. Be creative with your salad. There are endless possibilities for creating a nourishing salad to enjoy every day.

Carolyn Rostenne is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and owner of Freedom Wellness – Family Nutrition where she empowers and educates her clients to improve their health with the use of nutrient rich foods, natural supplements and lifestyle recommendations. Freedom Wellness offers individual nutritional consultations and group nutritional education. Call Carolyn for a free 15-minute phone consultation. Carolyn can be reached at carolyn@freedomwellness.ca or 416.271.3136.

Sources: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/05/11/eating-nuts.aspx http://foodfacts.mercola.com/cabbage.html Prescription for Dietary Wellness, Phyllis A. Balch

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