Fresh Ideas for Better Salads

We’re about two weeks into the new decade. How’s it going for you so far? If you’re resolving to eat healthier in 2020, I’m right there with you.

Although I exercise regularly, I’ll admit that my diet could use some work at times. I have a weakness for sweets and some days I probably don’t eat enough vegetables.

Salads are a great way to knock out a hearty serving of veggies in one sitting, but sometimes they have a bad reputation of being boring or unsatisfying. Luckily, by making a few upgrades to your salad game, you can transform a bland bowl of lettuce into a full-blown satisfying meal.

Here are a few tricks I’ve tried recently that help me eat more greens.

Try making your own dressing.

Store-bought dressings are decent, but there’s nothing better (and fresher!) than making your own. If this sounds like too much work, trust me – it’s easier than you’d think.

Most dressings are easily made in a blender or food processor and require minimal ingredients (most of which you probably have in your pantry right now).

If you’re new to DIY dressings, start out with this delicious, no-blender-needed combination:

  • 3 tablespoons EVOO
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste

If you’re feeling creative and looking to develop your own recipe, keep the following ratio in mind: for a balanced vinaigrette base, it’s best to use 1 part vinegar to 3 parts olive oil. The rest of the ingredients you add are up to you!

Add a serving of couscous or quinoa.

Adding a hearty ingredient like couscous or quinoa can make any salad more filling. Although they may appear similar, couscous and quinoa are very different: couscous is a grain (made up of small balls of durum wheat semolina), while quinoa is a gluten-free, edible seed.

Of the two, quinoa is my personal favorite: I like the taste, and it packs about 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber in a one-cup serving. Couscous isn’t too far behind in nutrition, though, averaging about 6 grams of protein per serving.

Use a combination of lettuces such as spinach, kale, spring mix, and arugula.

I love using a variety of different greens in my salads. Each type has a unique flavor, texture, and nutritional benefit. Switching up your ingredients is a great way to keep salads from getting boring, and there are so many delicious varieties to choose from.

As far as nutrition goes, the benefits vary widely depending on the type of lettuce you use. In a 2014 study by the CDC, researchers found the most nutritious leaves to be watercress, Chinese cabbage, and chard. To my delight, spinach and green leaf lettuce (which I use often) were also good choices.

Iceberg lettuce, while not nearly as nutritious as its darker-leafed cousins, is still refreshingly crunchy and delicious. I wouldn’t exclude it completely from your grocery list: even though it’s mostly water, it does contain trivial amounts of fiber, potassium and a few other nutrients.

And what about romaine? Personally, I’ve been avoiding romaine due to the widespread E. coli outbreaks in 2019. There are so many other types of lettuce out there that taking a chance with romaine isn’t necessary for me.

Organic green leaf lettuce is one of my favorite choices for salads.

Add crunch with tortilla chips, sesame noodles, or nuts.

Sometimes, all it takes is a little crunch to make a food more satisfying. Salads are no exception!

I love crumbling a handful of tortilla chips on my southwest and taco salads. Asian-style salads pair wonderfully with a serving of crispy sesame noodles, and onion straws are a nice topper on your next barbecue chicken salad.

Nuts and seeds are great salad additions, too. You’ve probably seen walnuts or almonds paired with chicken salads, but be sure to experiment with less-popular ingredients like pine nuts, pecans, and sunflower seeds. The possibilities are endless.

Invest in quality storage containers.

It’s a fact of life: nobody likes soggy lettuce. To prevent your salad from wilting in the fridge, it’s a good idea to invest in high-quality containers specifically designed for storing vegetables.

I recommend the OXO Good Grips Greensaver line. I have a few other OXO Good Grips containers and I am impressed with the quality, performance and overall value.

The Greensaver line of products are unique because they contain a carbon filter to absorb ethylene gas emissions, an advanced venting system to regulate humidity, and an elevated basket for better airflow. They easily fit in your fridge and are available in 3 sizes.

If you’re taking your salad to go, check out Grub2Go’s Stainless Steel Bento Lunch Box. Although it isn’t an air-tight choice, I like this product because it’s constructed from stainless steel, contains no plastic, and has compartments to separate lettuce from dressings and toppings.

Grow your own lettuce.

Lastly, for the freshest salads possible, you could consider growing your own lettuce.

A photo of the lettuce I grew using my AeroGarden Harvest.

Depending on your location and schedule, it may be hard to maintain a garden outside year-round. Luckily, there are many products available today for indoor growing.

Alan & I received an AeroGarden Harvest for Christmas two years ago. The lettuce grew easily, there was no soil needed, and it didn’t require much attention from us.

It did take about 3 weeks for the lettuce to be large enough to harvest, though. For this reason, I’d recommend starting the lettuce in the AeroGarden and transplanting it to a larger outdoor garden, if possible. For more information on indoor gardening, check out this informative article by Gardner’s Supply Company.

Thanks for reading, friends! Wishing everyone a wonderful week.

Do you have any salad tips to share? Drop a comment below! If you enjoyed this post, please follow along on WordPress and on Instagram @haileighsenatore.

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