10 Steps to Building a Healthy Salad

Get inspired this May for National Salad Month. Upgrade those boring bowls of iceberg lettuce and bottled dressings for colorful plates loaded with fresh and healthy ingredients. Salads can be a light appetizer or a filling main course, an interesting side, or a sweet dessert. Regardless, salads are an excellent way help boost your intake of fruits and vegetables each day. Check out the following suggestions to keep your salad nourishing and friendly all year long.

  1. While a traditional iceberg lettuce will always be a great salad base, try adding some darker greens such as romaine lettuce, arugula, spring mixes, kale, or spinach to your salad for a nutrition boost! Check out all the great salad mixes in the produce section at McCaffrey’s. Remember, it is not necessary to rewash lettuces that have already been prewashed.
  2. Regardless of your salad base, some of the most nutritious foods can add the most texture and flavor to your salad. Carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and onions are common salad ingredients. Try adding shaved fresh beets, shredded cabbage, roasted squash, sautéed mushrooms, or grilled asparagus to your dish.
  3. Looking for something sweet? Add tangerine sections, sliced strawberries, apple slices, or red grapes to your salad. Fresh fruit will add sweetness and moisture that may enable you to cut back on your dressing. Dried fruit will also add some sweetness and texture to your salad, but remember dried fruit is more calorically dense.
  4. Assess before you dress. If including items like marinated beets or bean salads to your dish, you may find your dressing needs are less than usual.
  5. Is cheese your thing? Keep in mind that shredded cheese or cheese crumbles may be a better option than chunks of cheese. Smaller pieces of cheese will disperse throughout your salad, giving you more bang per bite. Consider “strong” cheeses, like Parmesan or feta, where a small amount provides a lot of flavor. Have a chat with the cheese mongers at McCaffrey’s for fun and interesting cheese options that can be added to your salads.
  6. If you are enjoying a salad as a main meal, there are numerous protein choices to round out your plate. Great options include hard-boiled eggs, egg whites, grilled chicken, boiled or steamed shrimp, grilled salmon, roasted turkey breast, water-packed tuna, tofu, lentils, garbanzo beans, or black beans. Check your refrigerator and repurpose your leftovers!
  7. Your choice of dressing can make or break your salad. Read the labels. Remember, portions sizes matter! If you are serious about cutting calories on your salad, skip the dressing altogether. Squeeze lemon juice over your salad for a light citrus zest or try adding a spoonful of light bruschetta or salsa. If you add flavorful ingredients, you will not miss the dressing. Try this Honey Mustard dressing that has just 30 cals/tablespoon:

    • Whisk together 1 1/2 Tablespoons each of olive oil, Dijon mustard and honey along with 3 Tablespoons of non-fat plain Greek yogurt, 2 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and 1 Tablespoon soy sauce.
  8. For a heartier salad, add some whole grains into your dish – quinoa, farro, bulgur, or whole wheat pasta. Enjoy this Black Bean Quinoa Salad as a side or serve over a bed of greens and make it a meal.
  9. Looking for some extra crunch? Try adding pumpkin seeds, some slivered or crushed nuts, lightly broken flat bread crackers, or even some water chestnuts. While croutons are tasty, they tend to be high in fat and low in nutrition.
  10. Bring your salad to the next level with the perfect presentation. A large plate allows your salad to “spread out” so you can see all the “fixings.” A bowl works nicely when your salad has uniform ingredients. With a little creativity your meals will take on a new sparkle.

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