I talked about the importance of eating vegetables and greens as part of a healthy nutritional plan in my previous article “Why you should eat your salad“.
I mean let’s face it, salads are the only subject that vegans and paleo fanatics actually agree on!
In this article, I will elaborate on the most important components of a nutritious salad, what to avoid and how to make a healthy and balanced salad.
Table of Contents
- 1 Greens Base
- 2 Colored veggies
- 3 Healthy dressing and fats
- 4 Extra fats and protein
- 5 An interesting combo
- 6 Make your salad a complete meal
- 7 Avoid these ingredients in order to keep your salad healthy
- 8 One last salad tip
- 9 Closing Notes:
The true power of green vegetables. This will be the base of your salad which will give your system the folic acid and lutein it needs.
Go for both dark leafy greens such as baby or wild spinach for the iron, kale for the vitamin K, or you can go for a bit of a crunch and freshness by adding cucumber. You can also add white or light greens such as cabbage, turnip or horseradish.
How much to put: 1-2 cups is the minimum required.
Add color to your salad by introducing a variety of colored veggies such as red tomatoes (for lycopene), Yellow bell peppers (vitamin C), broccoli, red onions.
You can also add carrots, just remember that it is considered a tuber and has carbs.
How much to put: Add 1 cup or half the amount of your greens base.
Healthy dressing and fats
The best salad dressing should have 2-3 ingredients. Some suggestions for healthy dressings include:
- Extra virgin olive oil and apple cider vinegar.
- Extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar (if you are allergic to apple cider).
- Extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- Combine extra virgin olive oil with mustard and balsamic vinegar to make an interesting vinaigrette.
One of the biggest benefits of the Mediterranean diet is the healthy portion of fats coming from olive oil. Olive oil is excellent for salads, due to its nutrients and taste.
How much to put: A good dose of dressing (oil and vinegar) is around 3-8 spoonfuls (depending on the size of the salad, your body weight and weight goals).
Extra fats and protein
You cannot have a balanced salad without some protein. You could also add some extra healthy fats in the form of feta cheese, goat cheese or mozzarella.
If you are lactose intolerant or vegan, you can add some avocados and nuts such as pecans or pistachios.
Here a few suggestions for healthy fats:
- Greek feta, ricotta, goat or mozzarella cheese
- Nuts (pistachio, macadamia, pecans or cashews)
- Olives or olive paste
How much to put: 2 tablespoons of each is enough to add taste and a dose of healthy fats and protein.
An interesting combo
You can take the taste of your salad and its antioxidant content to the next level by adding dried raspberries or blueberries and pomegranate seeds.
Berries have a slightly sweet taste that goes great with the acidity of vinegar, especially balsamic vinegar.
Another good trick is to soak the dried fruit in a vinaigrette or plain vinegar for 2-3 hours before adding them to the salad. This will add volume to the dried fruit and a taste that will explode in your mouth every time you bite on a fruit.
How much to put: 1-2 tablespoons will do the trick.
Here is a list of spices I recommend for a healthy salad:
- Natural Salt (Himalayan or sea salt – never white salt)
- Black Sesame
- Black cumin (for those who want something more intense)
How much to put: Use 2-3 pinches of each spice to add taste and volume.
Make your salad a complete meal
If you want to turn your salad into a complete meal, just up the protein content by adding some boiled chicken breast or fish (tuna or wild salmon) or some chopped sirloin steak.
How much to put: 150-300 gr of meat, chicken or fish will suffice. (This depends on your body weight or weight goals.)
Avoid these ingredients in order to keep your salad healthy
So far, we talked about what the great components of a healthy salad are, now let’s take a look at all the things that should never be a part of it:
Any type of bread and white flour products
This includes croutons, pieces of toast and especially white bread. While olive oil on bread is a traditional starter in all Mediterranean cuisines, it is still a combination I do not recommend.
Ridiculous dressings loaded with calories and fats
Forget the commercial pre-prepared salad dressings as they are full of trans fat, sugars and other unhealthy oils.
Processed meats and other foods
Stay away from processed meats such as salami, cured meats (ham and bacon) and fried meats. These foods are either full of nitrates or full of acrylamides. Both of these are carcinogenic and can cause hormonal chaos in your system.
Adding fried foods to a salad
Anything that is fried is not healthy and therefore not part of a healthy salad.
Regular table (white) salt
Chlorinated salt (sodium chloride or common white table salt) is void of nutrients. Not only that, but it can also add pounds to your weight and inches to your waistline by way of water retention.
The only exception to this rule is consumption by people with thyroid problems. Most common white table salts contain extra iodine which is a must for a healthy thyroid. When in doubt, use white salt in moderation.
White sugar and fructose syrup
Why on earth would someone add any of these unhealthy sugars in a healthy salad is beyond me. And yet these “specialists” walk among us. Avoid their “awesome” culinary advice if you are serious about your health, diet and weight goals.
Note that fruits are also sugars but they serve a purpose and have great nutrients. White sugar and especially high fructose syrup are dangerous for your health, heart and waistline.
While I love honey and maple syrup, I do not believe that those belong in a salad either as they are more fit for use in a post-workout shake. I mentioned earlier how you can use a combination of dried berries and a vinegar to add that sweet taste. The only exception to this rule is honey mustard, which should be created with pure honey and NOT sugar or any type of fructose-based syrups.
If you want to make it even sweeter, add a few pieces of orange, tangerine or even mango instead but do not go overboard.
One last salad tip
Never leave your salad in the fridge. Leaving it in a fridge (especially overnight) will result in a nutrient-empty salad as most of the enzymes will be gone. Make it a rule to always prepare your salad and eat it within a few minutes.
No one can deny the importance of a healthy and balanced salad. It is very common though that people do not know how to make one. Following the advice on this article, will help you not only to make a healthy salad but to also enjoy it as part of your day.
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What is your favorite salad? Is there an ingredient that you love more than others? Let me know by leaving a comment below! Until next time, stay strong, healthy and free!
by Nick Sigma SHF
C.W.C, E.H, E-YRT200