Main Course Salads
Carol Bradley, PhD, RDN, LD, BCBA
When the weather is warm and it’s more fun to spend time out of doors, a salad can be quick, convenient, nutritious and delicious all at the same time! Start with a base of salad greens. To save time, there are many combinations of salad greens available, including chopped varieties. The more colorful greens are a fantastic source of many nutrients. For example, Romaine is rich in vitamins A, C, and K, plus folate, potassium and lutein.
Next, choose from a variety of fruits and/or vegetables. If you prefer a more standard salad with vegetables, many salad vegetables such as carrots can be purchased already shredded, along with cherry or grape tomatoes. Sliced red onion adds good flavor without being too strong and olives add healthy fats. Cottage cheese is a good source of protein and its creaminess allows you to use less salad dressing. Try adding a few black beans or a black bean and corn relish to increase the protein and flavor.
Fruits can provide a variety of textures such as crunchy apples or pears which are both good sources of fiber. Strawberries, blueberries, and mandarin oranges provide added color along with vitamin C and important antioxidants. Walnuts, pecans, or almonds can add additional crunch along with healthy fats. Top it off with your favorite cheese such as feta or bleu cheese for a protein source with calcium or try tofu. This type of salad is great with raspberry vinaigrette.
For meat lovers, these salads can also be a good way to use leftover meats such as grilled steak or chicken, roasted or rotisserie chicken, or tuna in the packets. Tuna now comes in flavors such as lemon pepper or hickory flavor. The possibilities are endless and allow you to make a quick, nutritious meal in a very short time without heating up the kitchen.
Having the ingredients on hand allows you to prepare a meal in minutes and is quite a savings compared to choosing the same salad in a restaurant. Choose your salad dressings wisely as they can add a lot of calories and sodium. Bacon is tasty but it also can be a significant source of sodium. Do your best to stick with fresh vegetables, fruits and meats for the greatest benefits. Creating your own salad is not only convenient but is a great way to spend less time in the kitchen and more time outside on warm days.