Salads are becoming very popular and they are a great way to increase your daily intake of vegetables. You can get your five daily servings, if not more, from just one nutrient dense salad! A salad of just plain vegetables is generally very low in calories and could leave you still feeling hungry. So, it’s important to create a high-energy sports salad and be sure to include enough carbohydrate and protein rich foods to make it substantial. But you must beware because it’s very easy to make calorie destroying mistakes when choosing a salad. Not choosing wisely could easily pack on hundreds of extra calories in refined sugars and lots of additional fat grams if you’re not watching out. Here are the top 10 tips to help you get the most out of your salad!
Tip #1: Boost the carbohydrate content of your salad by adding these nutrient packed foods:
- Carbohydrate-dense veggies such as corn, corn relish, peas, beets, and carrots.
- Beans and legumes such as chickpeas, kidney beans, and three-bean salad (great protein also).
- Cooked brown rice, whole wheat pasta or sweet potato chunks.
- Orange sections, diced apple, raisins, banana slices, and berries.
Tip #2: Choose a variety of dark, colorful veggies such as red tomatoes, green peppers, carrots and dark lettuce. Colorful veggies are rich in the antioxidants, nutrients and phytochemicals that protect your health.
Tip #3: Be generous with potassium-rich veggies. Potassium gets lost when we sweat and it’s the mineral that protects against high blood pressure. Some of the veggies that are rich in potassium include:
- Romaine lettuce
Tip #4: Include adequate protein by adding low-fat cottage cheese, tuna, salmon, turkey breast, chicken breast or some other type of lean meat. For vegetarian proteins, include diced tofu, chickpeas, three-bean salad, walnuts, sunflower seeds, almonds and peanuts.
Tip #5: Don’t forget the calcium. Add grated low-fat cheese, cubes of tofu or a scoop of low-fat cottage cheese. Drink low-fat milk or skim milk with your salad or have a cup of yogurt for dessert to get your calcium in.
Tip #6: Watch the salad dressing! So you’ve made the right decision by eating a nutritious salad, why on earth would you then drench it in fattening salad dressing? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose completely? A lot of the salad dressings that you find at the supermarket are fat bombs, plain and simple. A single serving of buttermilk ranch dressing, for example, has more fat than a double cheeseburger. Caesar, blue cheese and other creamy dressings aren’t much better. However, there are some healthy options when it comes to dressing up your greens. Balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil is a tasty, health-conscious alternative (olive oil is a great source of “good fat”). Annie’s Naturals is a brand of salad dressing that is a natural and organic option that’s free of unhealthy additives and GMOs. They also make vinaigrette dressings and the majority of their flavors are gluten-free. Instead of using traditional salad dressing, you might want to try bulking up your greens with some of these tasty “add-ons”:
- Hummus. Everything in hummus is healthy! It’s made from garbanzo beans, tahini, garlic, lime and olive oil.
- Mustard. Not only is it flavorful and sugar-free but mustard seeds are also potent antioxidants.
- Guacamole. There is a lot of “good fat” in guacamole, the kind that controls appetite and regulates the hormonal balance in your body. When buying store-bought guacamole, make sure that it doesn’t have any added trans-fats. Making fresh homemade guacamole is always the best way to go.
- Pesto. This nutritious blend of garlic, pine nuts, basil and olive oil is loaded with healthy fats and antioxidants.
Tip #7: Add some seaweed. Aside from seasoning your salad with a salty taste and providing some interesting texture, seaweed is also a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, niacin, riboflavin, folate, calcium, iron and other important minerals.
Tip #8: Cod liver oil. It’s one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids and it contains vitamin A and vitamin D which work together in a synergistic fashion. Cod liver oil has a reputation as being one of the best “brain foods” out there and it has many other healthy benefits. The problem, however, is that it tastes awful. Adding cod liver oil to a salad makes it a lot more palatable.
Tip #9: Go organic whenever possible. Not only are fresh, organic vegetables much more flavorful and far healthier but they are, by definition, free of pesticides. Most people would be shocked if they knew exactly how many harmful chemicals are sprayed on the supermarket produce that we eat. Moreover, these toxic pesticides aren’t properly broken down and they accumulate in the body over time. Pregnant women should pay special attention to what is being sprayed on the fruits and vegetables that they eat, as studies suggest that prenatal exposure to pesticides can cause delayed brain development and learning disabilities.
Tip #10: Boost the nutritional value of your salad with herbs. There are many fresh herbs that in addition to being flavorful, are also packed with vitamins and phytonutrients. Moreover, their high level of nutrient density means that they are also thermogenic, which means that they kickstart the metabolism, allowing the body to more efficiently turn caloric intake into energy. You don’t have to be an experienced green thumb in order to grow your own herbs at home. Seven of the most nutritious herbs include parsley, cilantro, oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary and dill.These tasty, nourishing herbs can be added as they are, or they can be infused into a delicious vinaigrette!