By Kathryn McLean
Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a great end-of-the-year and is looking forward to 2024.
January tends to be a time for reflection. Many of us look back on the past year, considering what we have to be thankful for.
Then there’s looking ahead, to the year before us. We make plans for the coming months: to eat better or increase our fitness. A common resolution (or at least a loose idea!) is to eat healthier.
Over the holiday season, we’re often surrounded by treats upon treats! And the New Year often brings the best intentioned plans to eat better. Which is to say, fewer sugary treats, more healthy meals.
Are you planning to add salads to your menu, whether for lunch or as part of your dinner? Salads don’t need to be just lettuce and carrots.
Canada‘s food guide (food-guide.canada.ca) instructs us that more than half our plate should be fresh vegetables or fruits. So if you’re making a salad in the spirit of eating healthier, don’t load it down with too many sweetened dry cranberries, lots of bacon and a creamy dressing.
You can include all sorts of ingredients from fresh fruits and vegetables to dried fruits and roasted veggies; proteins and cheese; nuts and seeds; and assorted dressings. The important piece is to include lots of fresh vegetables. Vegetables should make up the majority of the salad.
Be careful with the dressing you choose. Vegetables tossed with overly sweet, rich or salty dressing aren’t quite as good for us as those that are lightly dressed. Consider making a simple, fresh dressing with olive oil and lemon juice.
Tips and Combinations
When you’re preparing a salad to eat later, don’t put the dressing on the salad in advance, especially if the salad is based on lettuce and fresh greens.
A chopped salad, village salad, Greek salad or similar without tender greens, can stand up to dressing in advance.
The acid (lemon, vinegar, etc.) in salad dressings will start to break down lettuce, and it will get soft and mushy. So toss your lettuce-based salad in its dressing just as you’re ready to eat it.
If you’re looking for sturdy vegetables that can stand up to dressing in advance, reach for these: Bell peppers, celery, carrots, zucchini, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mushrooms, snap peas, tomatoes and onions.
Also, cooked vegetables can be dressed without getting mushy. Try roasted peppers or root vegetables, steamed green beans or peas (any variety) or roasted eggplant. You probably have leftover veggies in the fridge already.
Steps for a Delicious Salad
First, choose whether you’re making a lettuce-based salad or lettuce-free.
Next, decide which vegetables you’re going to use.
Now, once you have your base of lettuce and/or vegetables, consider the add-ons.
You can add cooked chicken, meat or shrimp. These are best for salad-as-a-meal.
Consider beans, lentils or boiled eggs. Maybe grated or crumbled cheese.
Adding some whole grains like rice, barley or quinoa will make the salad more filling, as well as help you towards getting the recommended amount into your diet.
Finally, add another texture by including fresh or dried fruits, nuts or seeds, or even croutons.
Pair spinach, kale or arugula with fresh fruits like apple or pear, berries or pomegranate, and cucumber. Add sunflower or pumpkin seeds and a cooked grain.
Winter is the time for fresh citrus, so try adding grapefruit or oranges to your mixed greens. Add chopped celery, along with the leaves, sliced green onion, and a handful of nuts.
Looking for a more filing salad? Add canned tuna, along with chopped olives or pickles, crisp veggies and croutons.
There aren’t hard and fast rules to making a good salad. Play around with what you have and what you like. The key is including lots of vegetables in your diet.