Let me clear things up for you if you’re not familiar with a sad salad. There are a few variations, the following two being the most common:
1. You come home from the grocery store with what you would consider to be ingredients for salad. You make the salad only to be wildly unimpressed. Your attempts to get healthy and “eat more kale” are already disappointing you. You throw the salad away after choking down the fifth, soggy bite and order takeout instead. You tell yourself, “Hey, at least I tried.”
2. After a long day at work, you decide to go to the drive-thru for a quick dinner fix. You tell yourself, “I’ve been good all week. I deserve this.” When you get there, the reality sets in: wait a minute, let’s not screw this up. You have a change of heart, and you order a salad instead of a large combo meal. This feels good initially, but the salad possesses no joy. You eat it in your car without dressing because you really did try. A single tear graces the last bits of iceberg and fake cheese. You decide to stop at the store for ice cream on the way home.
Does this sound familiar? Do salads make you weepy? Are you on your last leg trying to get on board with kale? Let me help you. Here are my top ten tips for salads that changed my life.
1. Do not reach for the tableware. Have you ever tried to wear clothing that’s two sizes to small? Yeah, me too. Turns out, it doesn’t work. Moreover, it’s sad. Nobody involved is happy, and it’s difficult to breathe. Do not make your lunch feel the same way; it did nothing to deserve such treatment. Instead, reach for a moderately sized mixing bowl. The one you’d use to make about a dozen cookies. Don’t skimp on size. A happy salad is a big salad.
2. Throw out the iceberg. We’re building from the ground up here, folks. The rest of your structure depends on your foundation. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by calling them names such as inferior, nutritionless, tasteless, and proclaiming that their texture is sub-par, but I’m going to. Iceberg is sad. Better options: spinach, arugula, kale, baby kale, endive, romaine, and escarole. The options are endless. Pick your poison and love it. There is a salad green for everyone.
3. Fat + salt = taste. You’re no stranger to this concept even if you’ve never done that equation before. Why do you think french fries taste so good? This is a surefire way to make your salad taste just like one! Okay, maybe not. Speaking of yinzers, let’s make new associations; your salad prep should not look the way it does at Primanti Bro’s. Anyhoo, just how do we get our tastebuds in “happy dance” mode? Olive oil and sea salt. Store-bought dressings with the exception of ones based on the ingredients I just name ought to be banished. Treat yourself to a quality bottle of olive oil and bask in the glory of the gift that keeps on giving.
4. Use both raw and cooked vegetables. Most people tend to gear toward crunchy, raw salad fixings commonly found at the salad bar. While there are plenty of options, this might just be the key to you liking what you’re putting in your mouth! Some of my favorite cooked additions are brussels sprouts, asparagus, eggplant, and sweet potato. It switches up the texture and adds extra nom-factor. Pro-tip: roast a huge tray of goodies at the beginning of the week to add to salads later.
5. Skip the dried fruit. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with a little somethin’ to make your lunch break a bit sweeter. Dried cranberries are a salad bar staple for a reason. The thing is, dried fruit is not a health food – it’s candy. While it has its place in this world, it should always be used sparingly. Those crimson bursts of rainbows, sunshine and sugar pack a serious calorie punch. Opt for fresh fruit instead. Fresh berries, chopped apple, ripe mango, and sliced pear are all suitable, versatile options.
6. Know what to avoid when ordering out. Despite the scenario I opened with, not all salads made by someone else are evil, nor will they all make you cry. Ask for your dressing on the side, and choose an oil or vinegar based option. Avoid dairy-based dressings like ranch or bleu cheese if you’re watching calories. Be wary of “too-sweet” dressings as they are probably comprised mostly of sugar. Skip the croutons and cheese. Spend the extra dollar on avocado or double-protein.
7. Speaking of protein… This is key! You know the empty feeling you get approximately two hours after lunch? You’re feeling sluggish and hungry even though you’ve just had your lunch. This can make you prone to mindless snacking while you patiently wait for an appropriate time to eat dinner. Serve approximately 4-6 oz. of protein on top of your salad depending on the leanness, your personal goals, and how much food you need to reach satiety. For fattier animals like beef and salmon, follow the 4 oz. rule. Add a little extra for chicken and turkey. Don’t go hungry. Eat meat instead. Oh, and don’t forget about eggs.
8. Condiments aren’t just for burgers. One of my personal favorite topping combinations for salad (okay, EVERYTHING) is dijon mustard and hot sauce. Dijon is creamy, which mimics the texture of a dairy-based dressing with minimal ingredients and no extra calories. Hot sauce… do I need to explain? If you like a little pep in your step, this can truly change the game.
9. Salad is fast food. Enjoy your salad anywhere you go. It’s one of those things that you can prepare ahead of time and eat on the go which are two of the most important aspects of the choices we make regarding our nutrition. Whether you need to eat in the car or you have some time to pack a picnic, a happy salad is the way to go.
10. There is a place and time to set limits. Making salads is neither the time nor place. Get creative. The food on your plate is an expression of who you are; healthy, vibrant, and filled with joy. Would you limit those facets of the person you are? No? Then create your salads with passion and without limits.
That’s it today folks! Until next time. . .
Master your instincts!