Base: My preferred base is lettuce. Not just iceberg, break out of the norm... experiment with different kinds. Some of my favorites, are spinach, romaine, and arugula... but I enjoy mixing different types together. Iceberg is classic, and what you usually find on restaurant salads, but it is not the most nutritious for you. If you are truly eating healthy, try to get the most bang for your buck. The dark leafy greens, pack the most bang! I buy pre-washed containers or bags of organic lettuce, less work for me! Pasta or cooked grain salads are also an option.
Toppings: No two salads are alike for me, I switch up my toppings all the time. by changing one topping will give your salad a whole new taste and texture.
- Vegetables- It's not just about tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots. When making veggies for other meals (grilled, steamed, roasted, etc), I always make extra. I store the extras in a separate container, already chopped, so all I have to do is just throw them on the lettuce. Green beans, asparagus, brussels sprouts, corn, broccoli (I'm not a big fan of raw broccoli), etc... I also chop carrots, cucumbers, celery at the beginning of the week so they are also ready to go. Plus, I buy grape tomatoes, no prep needed.
- Grains & Beans- I love adding bean and grains to my salad. It's a great way to make your salad more filling. Same way as the veggies, I make extra from a previous meal, and just throw it on my salad. Some of my favorites are quinoa, brown rice, black beans, soy beans (edemame), barley, and whole wheat pasta. I've even put my vegetarian chili on top of a salad one time!
- Proteins- I don't always put "meat" on my salad. I like to grill or bake extra meat, especially chicken and salmon. I personally stay away from lunch meats as toppings. I also keep a stash of albacore tuna packets in my pantry too. Sometimes, I'll heat up my leftover meat or a veggie burger and place it on top. Hard boiled eggs are also a great option, plus you can make a few a head of time and store in your fridge.
- Cheese & others- I love cheese! On salads, blue, feta, or parm are favorites. If I'm making a "Mexican" themed salad, I love shredded cheddar! I also love dried fruits and nuts (esp cranberries & almonds). As a treat, I love to add candied walnuts (you buy them already prepared). At times, I enjoy adding apple slices, oranges, or strawberries to my salad. Fresh herbs can be fun too!
- Dressings- This is where the real fun can begin. I love to try different dressings. I actually have 5 different salad dressings in my refrigerator. However, I don't always use prepared dressings... I love oil & vinegar, salsa, and sometimes just lemon or lime juice. I've made some great homemade vinaigrettes. Since I prefer to enjoy the flavors of my lettuce and toppings, I only use about 1-2 tbsp of my dressing of choice. When watching my waistline, I choose oil & vinegar or vinaigrette instead of creamy dressings.
You can use the same ingredients over and over again, but make a different salad every time. Salads can be super easy, if you prepare the ingredients ahead of time. If time is not on your side, make it the night before, just keep your dressing separate, so your lettuce doesn't get soggy. If your fridge is empty, and you need a salad to go, my favorite places to get a salad are Salad Works, Chipotle, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods (salad bar or already prepared), and Chop't or PAX (not in DE though).
Salads can supply your body with all of your daily vegetable servings, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They're a wonderful option when stuck at a buffet where the hot food isn't up to par, or when you need a fast meal. Tonight, I am having a spinach salad, topped with tomatoes, almonds, asparagus, dried cranberries, carrots, teriyaki veggie burger, and an Asian sesame dressing. I wish you all the creativity in making salads not boring! Don't forget to chew, enjoy!!