Thursday, April 19, 2007

Super Salads

A salad is a great way to round out a meal and get your daily vegetable quota, but many salads out there are sadly lacking in nutrition.

My family eats salad with dinner at least three times a week. Here are some ideas for improving the quality of your salads.

1. Go for color. Think dark, leafy greens and at least 2 other colors. We never eat salads made with iceberg lettuce. Instead, I buy romaine, red leaf, or whatever variety looks good at the grocery store. I also add tomatoes, carrots, and cucumber; mushrooms, diced green pepper and olives for my husband; avocado cubes for me. Add radishes, onions, or whatever vegetables your family likes to eat. Consider asian style salads with mandarin oranges, italian style with capers or greek style with cucumbers.

2. Choose your dressing wisely. Try light or reduced fat dressings if you like them; otherwise, try to stick to the 2 tablespoon rule. Vinaigrettes are usually the lightest and anything containing cheese is usually heavier.

3.Take it easy on the extras. If you have to have them, choose croutons OR bacon bits and use them sparingly.

4. Add a protein. I usually slice a hardboiled egg and split it between each family member. If I'm making a main course salad for myself, I'll put in some tuna fish or cottage cheese. The advantage to this is that tuna adds extra moisture, so I can use less dressing. My husband sometimes likes a small amount of kidney beans.

5. Add a fat. Fat is necessary in your diet for a number of organ systems, especially in growing children. The key is choosing healthy fats over saturated fats and trans fats that can affect your heart health, and not overindulging in any sort of fat, even the good ones. I like to add a sprinkle of shredded cheese or a few cubes of avocado to my salads. If you like oil based dressings, olive oil is a smarter way to sneak some fat into your diet.

6. Pay attention to size. A side salad served as a compliment to a meal should be around 100 calories or less.

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