Cooking from scratch is the healthiest way to eat, but I like to plan ahead so that I have enough food left over from one home-cooked meal to make a quicker meal the next night. If you preplan your meals, you don’t have to cook as often.
In my family, we enjoy a large salad as a meal at least a few times a week. What makes it filling is adding the meat and other left overs from the night before.
The best part is that you can easily customize your salad based on what you have in the house. It is an easy meal and a healthy one too! You can’t go wrong.
The cooler Fall weather is bringing in fresh lettuces and other greens, so now is a great time for salads. This week we enjoyed a salad with curly leaf lettuce and arugula from our local farmer’s market.
Salad Fixings for an Easy Salad Meal
Select options from each of the categories below and make your own creation. (All ingredients are dairy and gluten free.) Get creative and try different combinations of ingredients until you find your favorites. Two of ours are pictured above.
Be sure to use organic ingredients whenever possible. (Lettuces and celery are especially high in pesticides. Learn more here.) And, stay away from conventional meats. Instead, use fish that is wild caught, beef that is grass fed and pastured, and chicken that is free roaming and fed minimal (non-GMO) grains, etc. (Learn more here.)
- LETTUCES – Select one or two leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, curly leaf lettuce, arugula, etc. Tear or chop them into bite size pieces. If you want to use kale, the trick is to massage it with your fingers to make it more tender. (We like lacinato kale since it’s lower in oxalates.)
- FRESH VEGGIES – This is where you can get creative. I almost always add celery for the extra crunch. Other options include chopped or shredded carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, radishes, peppers, zucchini, etc. For the more adventurous, add roasted garlic and/or raw onion. One of my favorites is to add finely cut or shredded red cabbage. (Purple veggies are hard to find and full of phytonutrients, not to mention a great way to add color to a salad.)
- PROTEINS – We like to use meat (like grilled chicken or a burger) and fish (like salmon), but you can also include legumes such as organic garbanzo beans, black beans, adzuki beans, or navy beans. Be sure the legumes are organic since many are sprayed with glyphosate right before harvest. (Learn how to properly prepare legumes here.) Sliced boiled egg is another nice addition.
- FATS – Avocado is a must in our family. The easiest way to cut them into a salad is to half the avocado and remove the pit by hitting it hard with a sharp knife and twisting it out. Then slice the avocado while it is still in the skin, cutting vertically and horizontally before using a spoon to scoop out the chunks. See “toppings” and “dressing” for additional fats.
- LEFT OVERS (and starches) – When I cook dinner, I always plan for extra to be used for dinner and/or lunch the following day. Not only do I add meat to the salad but other left overs too such as rice or quinoa cooked in broth, cold potatoes (cut into cubes), stir fry, etc. Another great addition is chunks of roasted veggies like brussel sprouts, asparagus, sweet potato, or squash.
- TOPPINGS – Use a coffee grinder to grind up flax seed and sprinkle on top for extra fiber and omega-3 fat. Sprinkle on nuts and seeds for additional fats as well as dried apples pieces, pineapple chunks, etc. for interesting flavors.
- DRESSING – This is where you can easily get into trouble because most salad dressings, even the organic ones, still have questionable ingredients, especially when it comes to vegetable oils. If you want to try making your own, try this simple dressing or this garlic cilantro version. You can also go to my pantry to find healthier store-bought brands. (To learn more about good and bad fats and oils click here.)
Use the leafy greens as your base and add all the other selected ingredients in the order listed above. Then sit down to enjoy your quick and healthy meal.
Salads for Kids – If you are trying to teach young children to enjoy eating salads you may need to start with less veggies and slowly work your way up. The best course of action is to start introducing a variety of pureed veggies early in their life so they get use to the taste. If you have an older child, another trick is to load the salad with a dressing they like and slowly taper the amount of dressing over time.