As the weather starts to change from spring to summer, we want to spend more time outside with our families while it is warm and sunny. Salads can be a great addition to any family picnic or outdoor barbeque. When we think of salads, a plain green lettuce salad with a boring dressing may come to mind, but salads can be so much more than that! A fun activity for you and your family to try this month could be experimenting with different types of salads or adding a variety of toppings to bring your salads to the next level while packing them full of healthy nutrients.
A few fun ways to level up your salads are to include more colors, textures, and flavors.
Lettuce/Base of Salad: Instead of having the base of your salad be iceberg lettuce, try including spinach, kale, arugula, red leaf lettuce, microgreens, or other leafy greens to add a variety of textures and nutrients.
Vegetables: Sliced, shredded or chopped vegetables can add a pop of color, flavor, and crunch to your salads while providing you and your family with essential vitamins and minerals. Try adding cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, radishes, red onion, avocado, mushrooms, bell peppers, and broccoli.
Fruits: Adding fruits to salads can be a great way to add a sweet or acidic sensation depending on the type of fruit as well as lots of vitamins and minerals. Some fruits to try on salads could include sliced strawberries, blueberries or any other type of berry, chopped apple or pear, grapes, or citrus fruits.
Proteins: Salads don’t have to just be appetizers or sides to a main course. They can be made into whole meals when paired with protein that will help keep us feeling full and satisfied. A few plant-based proteins to add to your salads are garbanzo beans or chickpeas, edamame, tofu, lentils, or any type of bean such as black, navy, or kidney. Some nutrient rich animal protein sources are hard-boiled eggs, or lean meats like chicken, turkey, or fish.
Additional Toppings: Nuts and seeds are also great salad toppers because they provide healthy sources of protein and fat while adding flavor and a good crunch to salads. A few examples are sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, chia seeds and pine nuts. Another great way to add a variety of flavors and textures to salads is to include dried fruits such as raisins, dates, cranberries, or plums.
Dressings: Salad dressings add a lot of flavor, color and texture as well as help to create a satisfying salad, but be aware of how much dressing you are adding because a small amount of salad dressing can go a long way. Some store-bought salad dressings can be filled with extra sodium, fat, preservatives and calories which can make them not as great of a choice for our family. So, it is important to be aware of what types of salad dressings you are choosing. A few other great salad dressing options that are lighter and contain less fat and preservatives include vinegars and oils, yogurt-based dressings, as well as vinaigrette dressings.
Written by Sarah Michaels – University of Idaho Dietetics Student (2020)
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2019). Smart Tips to Build a Healthy Salad. Eat Right: Food, Nutrition and Health Tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Retrieved from https://www.eatrightpro.org/-/media/eatright-files/nationalnutritionmonth/handoutsandtipsheets/nutritiontipsheets/2020/smart-tips-for-building-a-healthy-salad_final.pdf?la=en&hash=F94E288FC9D036DA3D09C54193C54D85D886EE86
BPI Sports. (2018). Celebrating National Salad Month – Ten Tips to Jazz up a Salad. BPI Sports, LLC. Retrieved from https://bpisports.com/blog/celebrating-national-salad-month
Have a Plant: Fruits and Vegetables for Better Health. (n.d.). Celebrate National Salad Month. Produce for Better Health Foundation. Retrieved from https://fruitsandveggies.org/stories/celebrate-national-salad-month/