It’s no secret that I love a great salad and that they’re often my lunch of choice during the week. But, I think one of the biggest problems with salads is that they are so easy to get wrong. Either you think you’re being healthy by eating them and they’re laden with unhealthy add-ons or you think you’re being healthy eating them and they don’t have enough substance. The key to a proper salad is to make it filling while also managing the fat. Below is what I like to describe as my formula for the perfect salad, every time.
- Fill up the bowl with as many non-starchy veggies as your heart can handle. What do I mean by non starchy? Things like lettuce, celery, peppers, asparagus, broccoli, cucumbers, snap peas, radishes, you get the idea. Starchy vegetables include things like potatoes, peas, corn, etc. While these types of vegetables are also great, they shouldn’t be the base for your salad but more an accompaniment.
- When it comes to lettuce, mix it up. Try several different types of lettuce in one bowl or skip the romaine/iceberg and use spinach, arugula, baby kale, butter lettuce instead.
- A quick note on fruit, I love a little sweetness in my salads. Apple and pear are my go-to’s but pomegranate seeds, orange segments or even a handful of blueberries can take an everyday salad from meh to mmmm.
- Always add a grain, bean or other protein. This is where you getting your staying power from. Non-starchy vegetables won’t keep you full and will likely have you searching the pantry in a few hours. Grains like quinoa, farro, millet or even rice are great for keeping you full.
- If I only have time for one, I choose a grain but most the time I opt for a gran and beans. I usually throw in whatever’s leftover from the night before but edamame, lentils, favas are all great alternatives to the usual bean. I keep edamame and fava beans on hand in the freezer for easy salad makings.
- As a vegetarian, I try to pay attention to my protein. I love pressed and marinated tofu and my absolute favorite meat substitute is Field Roast. I am a huge fan of their celebration roast but their apple maple breakfast sausages are amazing too.
- Layer on the fat. This may seem counterintuitive but you need healthy fat to make your salad satiating. Avocado is usually my fat of choice but olives, nuts, cheeses, hemp hearts and homemade dressings are also wonderful salad toppers.
- I recommend one, maybe two fat options per salad.
- Speaking of dressings. I’m not scared of full fat dressing, I’m just careful with the quantity. I try to balance it out with the other fats in my salad. If I’m heavy on the avocado and I added nuts then I might be more sparing. But if all I added were some hemp hearts then I’ll be more liberal. It’s about the entirety of the meal not just the individual ingredient.
- I’m currently loving my tahini dressing (featured in the first photo at top, recipe coming) but sometimes a simple rice wine vinegar and olive oil mix does the trick. If you want to stay away from dressing all together add your favorite hummus to your salad. You can thin it out with a little bit of water, then pour it on top, if you want a more salad dressing-y consistency.
So there you have it.
I find this formula to be really simple and helpful as I build my meals. One thing I’ve also found that helps make week day salads more accessible is to prep ahead of time. I’ll make my grain on Monday and use it throughout the week. I also try, though am somewhat bad at, chopping my veggies ahead of time but if you do a Sunday prep, just throw all your cut vegetables into a Tupperware for easy access later in the week.
The four part formula for the perfect salad:
Non-starchy vegetables + grain + protein + fat = perfection!