Friday, March 18, 2011

Eight Ways to Make a Healthy Salad

I ate the last of my Siggis yogurt yesterday. Blueberry, but now it's gone. My sad face is not. At least I still have a few freebie coupons left. So until we meet again, dear Siggis. Until we. meet. again.  (She says, as her head drops and her frown deepens. It's true, she almost shed a tear! But not is, after all, only yogurt.) (Only the BEST. YOGURT. EVER!) Thankfully, Chobani yogurt is all too willing to step up to the plate. Love me some Chobani! But I digress. This post is not about yogurt. (Although, if you stay tuned, I have another yogurt-centric giveaway scheduled. It's still my blog birthday month, dontcha know.

Hello, gifts for you!)

This post is about, among other things, salad. Because who doesn't love a great salad? They're like the epitome of fit-tastic eating! Except when they aren't. Not all salads are created equal, we must remember this. When you visit the salad bar, which I'm prone to doing quite often, you have to really think about what you're putting on top of your lettuce. In fact, you have to think about your lettuce! Before I get into that, take a look at yesterday's lunch.

Now, I can't speak for your grocery store, but mine puts out the most fantastic salad bar complete with pudding and pasta salads, and an entire fleet of other delectable yet dangerous foods not worth eating. I tend to stick to what's fresh. Case in point, my plate above. Ingredients? I thought you'd never ask. Mixed greens, grilled chicken strips, one hard-boiled egg, green and red pepper slices, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, chopped red onion, black olives, peas, sunflower seeds, Chia seeds and freshly ground black pepper.

Oh, and strawberries. Can you find them in the picture above? It's like the edible version of Where's Waldo?. Remember those books? I loved them so much when I was little. They'd entertain me for hours and hours. And sometimes they'd make me really mad if I couldn't find him fast enough. That's the lack of patience in me. But anyways, back to making salads. What follows are eight ways to make a healthy salad. (From my own experience, of course.)

1) Don't go it alone with the Iceberg. While it's not bad for you, it's not the best lettuce out there in terms of nutrient count. Mix it up with a little Romaine, perhaps some red leaf. The deeper the green, the more you'll get out of it.

2) Forgo the dairy. As in, cheese and/or creamy dressings. As much as we love these things, they contain a lot of fat. If I'm desperate for cheese, I'll sprinkle some Feta across the top. Just a hint! But I almost never crave a creamy dressing. I much prefer splashes of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

3) Keep your dressing on the side, if at all possible. You'll be surprised at how much you DON'T need. Dip your fork, then spear the bite. Or vice versa. It's up to you.

4) Think in terms of color when adding your veggies. The more colorful your salad, the wider variety of nutrients you'll be getting. And, quite frankly, the more filling your salad will be.

5) Don't forget the protein! Beans, beans—the magical fruit! Seeds and nuts work, too. And there's always eggs and chicken. But don't, under any circumstance, go with fried chicken strips. CALORIES! I realize that some of you like to eat bacon (not me), so if you do, try to pick the freshly cooked kind. Bacon doesn't come in a bottle.

6) Skip fruit, but add fruit. Let me explain: If you want something sweet in your salad to balance out all the flavors, go for the fresh fruit. Not the dried fruit, as it can be loaded with sugar. Aside from strawberries, blueberries and mandarin oranges are nice. As are melons and apples.

7) Add flavor with seasonings. I never eat a salad without black pepper. I've been known to add garlic powder, too. Really, anything goes. Seasonings add hardly a calorie, but they can add sodium. So make sure there isn't any hidden salt in your favorite before you shake it on.

8) Choose your carbs wisely. Angela of Oh She Glows makes a nice salad topper worth trying, or you can serve something like the following on the side:

Two brown rice cakes with equal parts butter of the Trader Joe's Almond and homemade pumpkin variety. Yummy in my tummy. Really, so good. Just do your best to stay away from those curly noodle things, or the fried tortilla strips. Never a good carb.

With that, I must leave you. It's Friday, which means the weekend is here. Just gotta get through one short morning shift at the gym, and then it's on. This weekend? Off to South Bend again. Looking forward to running errands with the mother, and literally running with the mother and sister and auntie as well. 7 miles. It should be interesting, given the recent pause in training due to the annoying cold. Which, by the way, is worlds better than it was.

Question: What are you doing this weekend? And what's your favorite salad topper?

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