When folks think of “healthy food” salads often come to mind. Not only does a salad provide you the opportunity to get a lot of vegetables in at once, but the array of colors can be just as pleasing to the eye as the flavors are pleasing to the taste buds. And no, salads don’t have to be boring or unsatisfying! Come out of your salad rut and experiment with some of these fresh, REAL FOOD ideas!
Start by choosing a good base. Iceberg lettuce just doesn’t do it for us! Why use the old, bland, low nutrient standby when there are so many other options: spinach, arugula, butter lettuce, dandelion greens, frisee, oak leaf lettuce, mache, radicchio, red-leaf lettuce, mizuna…
Microgreens are nutrient powerhouses so we will often add them to the base. Our favorites are broccoli, alfalfa, mung bean, cilantro, sunflower, and pea.
This is the perfect time to add in those veggies that you might not have fit in the rest of the day. The sky’s the limit: grated raw carrot, beet, or zucchini, cucumber, cooked broccoli or cauliflower florets, bell peppers, snap peas, radishes, avocado (technically a fruit ; )… Whatever’s in season! They can be raw, roasted, sauteed, grilled… It’s actually great for digestion to have a mix of raw and cooked veggies so throw in some leftovers.
And don’t forget the fermented vegetables! Adding a little sauerkraut or fermented beets, carrots, etc. adds a ton of flavor AND nutrition!
It’s a good idea to include some protein so that your salad is truly satisfying. Boiled eggs are a good choice. (We only boil ours for about 7-8 minutes so as not to oxidize the healthy fats.) Cheese is another great option: feta, Gorgonzola, blue cheese, etc. Adding meat or fish can also provide a grounding aspect to a salad: chicken, duck, beef, lamb, salmon, tuna, shrimp, sardines… This is another opportunity to use those leftovers ; )
If you want to go completely veggie using a combination of sprouted nuts, seeds, quinoa, beans and/or lentils ensures that you are getting complete proteins and is nice and filling so your blood sugar will stay stable for hours.
Dressing plays an important role in a good salad. Not only do we need a source of healthy fat in order to absorb all the minerals in our vegetables and greens, but the flavor can really tie everything together.
The traditional ratio for salad dressing is 1 part oil to 3 parts vinegar or citrus juice. Healthy oils include olive, avocado, walnut, sesame… Vinegar options include apple cider, balsamic, red or white wine, rice… Experiment!
For variation I like adding prepared mustard. (Use one teaspoonful of mustard for every half cup of salad dressing.) Herbal tea is great for a unique twist & fresh or dried herbs, with a little salt & pepper often add the perfect finishing touch!
Here are some great dressing recipes that I have enjoyed for many years : )
Garlic Sesame Ginger Dressing
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup sesame oil
2-3 fresh garlic cloves (minced)
2 ½ tsp fresh ginger root (minced)
1 ½ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 Tbs white miso paste
2 Tbs white sesame seeds
2 Tbs prepared mustard
2 Tbs apple juice
¼ cup aloe vera juice or gel
~ Place ingredients in a quart mason jar and shake.
* Makes 1 ¼ cups
1/3 cup virgin olive oil
1/3 cup hemp seed oil
1 whole garlic clove (minced)
1 ½ tsp curry powder
1 Tbs chopped cappers
½ tsp each dried tarragon, mint, dill, oregano, thyme, marjoram, sage, rosemary, turmeric powder, and cumin powder
~ Place in a quart mason jar and shake. Let stand refrigerated for at least 2 hours to achieve full flavor.
* Makes 1 ½ cups
Green Goddess Dressing
2 Tbs feta cheese
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs hemp seed oil
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs fresh apple juice
1 Tbs fresh rosemary
2 Tbs fresh chives, chopped
1 Tbs coconut aminos
~ Place all ingredients in blender and and process until creamy.
*Makes ½ cup
One of the most important things to remember when taking a step towards healthy eating is not to get overwhelmed. Take one step at a time.
Here are a few tips for getting started:
- Use some ingredients that you know and love and add one or two new things each time you grocery shop.
- Use leftover vegetables and meat for salads the next day. So time saving!
- Make friends with the people that work in the produce department in your store or sell their produce at the farmers’ market. Ask for recommendations or tips on how to cook what’s in season.
- Get creative! Preparing your meals can be fun if you let it be : )
China Rose Zamora is a functional nutritional therapist, clinical herbalist, and yoga teacher who has worked in the holistic health field since 1998 and has proudly served her community as China Rose Wellness since 2009. When she’s not coaching women to rise to their health potential, practicing herbal alchemy, traveling the country via mobile tiny house teaching inspirational workshops to demystify wellness, or co-facilitating transformational retreats with AJ, her-eco warrior partner in adventure, you can find her meandering on the nearest hiking trail or jammin’ at a local, live music venue. China Rose is a firm believer that wellness encompasses everything that nourishes us, body & soul!