Nutrition-wise blog

Bring back the salad days

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. August 16, 2011

Salad is a great way to fill your plate and your body with nutritious but lower calories foods. Unfortunately, salad is only making it onto our plates 36 times a year. Yes, that's correct. Americans are making salads for less than 10 percent of meals — a decline of 20 percent in the past 15 years.

Could it be that when you think of salad you think of iceberg lettuce? I'll admit that doesn't necessary illicit excitement in me either.

Time to break the mold! Salads make a beautiful side dish or an entire meal. And the possibilities for flavor are plentiful.

Start with the base. Experiment with new lettuces and vegetables. Try one of the mixes that come right out of the bag or carton. Or mix a new variety into your usual greens. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Mild options: Boston and bibb lettuce and spinach
  • More pungent choices: Romaine and arugula
  • The strong stuff: Chicory

Next top it off with a mixture of vegetable, fruit and protein for visual appeal, an abundance of nutrients and a satisfied stomach.

  • Sweet and chewy: Dried cranberries, cherries, apricots, dates, raisins
  • Sweet and crunchy: Colorful bell peppers, sweet onions such as Vidalia or golden varieties, carrots
  • Naturally sweet: Cherries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, mangos
  • Mild and crunchy: Apple, pear, zucchini, cucumber
  • Nutty: Walnuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds, soy nuts
  • Mellow and smooth: Tomatoes (try heirloom varieties), pears, grape tomatoes
  • Sharp or spicy: Hot peppers, red or purple onions, a few crumbles of blue cheese, extra sharp cheddar
  • Hearty: Meat, tofu, beans

Experiment with contrasting or complementary flavors. Combine a mild lettuce with toppings that are sweet, mild, nutty and sharp for a flavorful medley. Or combine a peppery lettuce with a few mild or mellow toppings and a sharp one to keep it interesting.

Bring back the salad! Let us know your favorite combinations.

Wishing you delicious & nutritious meals,

Katherine

Aug. 16, 2011