Salads are a fresh, delicious meal option that nearly everyone considers a 'go-to' when moving towards healthy eating. However, despite the multitude of ways one can prepare a salad, it can be easy to make the same tossed garden salad over and over again. But don't fret with a little know-how and willingness to try new ingredients you can breathe new life into your next bowl of greens.
If there's one green you don't want to depend on daily, it's iceberg lettuce. Sure, it offers up a cool and crunchy mouthful, but compared to all other salad fixings, this one ranks low nutritionally, being devoid of vitamins A and C, folate, iron and calcium, which are found in many other greens.
A spring or mesclun mix provides good variety, significant source of Vitamins A, C and iron, and convenience; just wash, spin-dry and serve. You're likely to find Asian greens like tatsoi mizuna and red mustard in the mix, not to mention nutty and spicy arugula, plus more bitter additions like radicchio and endive.
Sweet and mild, baby spinach is a favourite salad addition. It's bursting with vitamin A and folate. Spinach contains iron and calcium, but sadly, our bodies can't absorb it. That's because spinach is also high in oxalic acid, a chemical that blocks absorption.
Trendy greens to watch out for include lollo rosso, with its deeply curled, rose-coloured leaf margins and baby oak leaves, which resemble their namesake and have a relatively strong lettuce flavour.
Before a dressing is drizzled on those greens, most salads are extremely low-fat, high in fibre and chockablock with nutrients. Practice a light hand when anointing your salad or lighten up your homemade vinaigrettes with these tricks.
- The lighter the acid, the less oil you'll need. Instead of vinegar, try two to three parts lemon, orange or grapefruit juice to one part oil.
- Buttermilk has a creamy taste but less fat. Use it in recipes calling for mayonnaise. Or try low-fat yogurt instead of sour cream. You may need to add a bit of sugar to the dressing to round out the flavour.
Steam some seasonal vegetables until just tender-crisp, drain then toss with a vinaigrette. The flavours of a dressing will infuse best if applied to vegetables when hot. Think lightly steamed new red potatoes, sliced fennel, snap peas, asparagus or leeks. Or, boil up some beets and mix sliced, cooked beets with beet greens, sliced red onions, hard-boiled eggs, crumbled goat cheese and a light vinaigrette.
Brown rice, barley, whole-wheat couscous and pasta all make great salads. Generally, these carbs are cooked first then refrigerated before adding to a salad. But try this: On a bed of leafy greens mixed with some sliced mushrooms, place a few big spoonfuls of hot brown rice. Immediately dress with an Asian style dressing, and garnish with chopped green onions, fresh coriander and grated carrots.
Herbs and salad greens go hand in hand; besides, many herbs are an excellent source of nutrients. You can chop them up finely or add whole leaves, or try a combination of both. Half of a leafy green salad can be composed of herbs – a great way to use up basil or parsley that's withering in your crisper! A mix tastes best: Consider chives, parsley, coriander, mint, basil, chervil or thyme.