A MAJOR complaint I get from people about salads they make themselves is that they get boring.
Actually... this is just an across-the-board complaint about "healthy food" in general.
Which you can kinda say was the point of making this website - I just wanted to make healthy food more accessible and "fun."
But I digress. ;)
What constitutes the "perfect salad?"
Everyone will probably disagree with this. And if you notice, Paleo-dogmatics will probably be shaking in their boots at the fact I put black-eyed peas (AH! LEGUMES!) on this salad.
But at the end of the day, regardless of what you put in or on your salad, I think there are a few major points we can all agree on when it comes to classifying the "perfect salad":
- It's comprised of highly-nutritious foods, whatever those may be
- It doesn't have anything in it that you're allergic to or unable to digest
- It satiates your hunger (i.e. you're not still hungry once you've finished it)
- It tastes GREAT!
No mention of the actual contents in that list there. See where we're heading here?
Do what works for you. The golden rule of health and fitness.
If your blood work and feelings of vitality are showing that you're healthy, you've cracked the code. You don't need to follow another fad. That's the whole endgame.
Okay, the soapbox is officially dismounted. Let's get building a salad.
5 Steps to Build the Perfect Salad
Prep time: 5 minutes
Yield: 1 large salad
1: Start with a base of leafy greens.
Now, let's be clear with this one: NO ICEBURG LETTUCE.
Or, if you like the texture... you've gotta put something else on there with it. Iceburg lettuce is basically expensive water.
Wow, lots of soapbox speeches today!
Normally, I just buy salad mixes such as power greens, Trader Joe's Cruciferous Crunch blend, spring greens, an herb salad mix... you get the picture. You could also whip up a batch of my Completely Cruciferous Salad and that should do you right for the week.
I literally grab at least two different types of mix for the week and mix them together for each daily salad. Hit all the bases (ha), you know?
2: Top with some "fun" filler veggies that add color and flavor
It doesn't necessarily matter what these veggies are - but I suggest picking at least 2 veggies OTHER than the leafy greens base to add some more texture and nutrients to the mix.
Some great ideas for this are:
- Zucchini squash
...I think you get the idea.
Picking a few differently-colored veggies you can cut up quickly and throw on the salad - or even ones you can cut up at the beginning of the week and store that way without going bad - are going to easily fill that bowl more.
2.5: Add something for texture and/or carbs
I made this the "half-rule" because it's not suuuuuper necessary (especially if you're doing something like the Keto Diet and need to keep carbs extremely low).
But a common theme in the salads I like to eat when I go out was the texture of something other than meat and veggies in it.
Legumes don't bother my digestive tract, and I quite enjoy them. So... this usually ends up being some bulk-made lentils or black-eyed peas that are just kept in the fridge for the week and scooped onto the salad.
Some ideas for this step would be:
- Legumes (beans/lentils/etc)
- Cooked rice that is cooled
- Tabbouleh (if you can handle gluten)
- A hard-boiled egg (the texture is just different than other proteins)
- Some crumbly goat cheese
- Baked or fried plantains
- Bulk-prepared root veggies
I think you get the idea. It adds some "flair" to what you're chewing on. ;)
3: Add some protein
Whether you're vegetarian/vegan/an omnivore, I think this is crucial to include in the perfect salad.
It always boggles my mind when people try to pass off a leaves-and-veggies-only salad as a full meal.
That's like, 200 calories max. Ain't NOBODY gonna feel satiated after that.
Some protein ideas:
- Chicken (shredded, chopped up breasts, pick a roasted chicken)
- Beef (ground, steak, stir fry pieces)
- Fish (salmon, tuna, shrimp)
- Legumes (chickpeas, black beans, churro beans, black eyed peas, lentils, kidney beans)
Everyone can find something they like... and you should be trying to include this in your perfect salad! Especially if this is going to be a main meal in your day. Don't feel like you should be full after a few leafy greens in a salad.
4: Add some healthy fat!
This is probably the only thing that gets me more riled up than when people don't add protein to their salad.
You literally need to have some sort of healthy fat with your salad, even more than you need the protein.
Most of the beneficial vitamins in these brightly-colored veggies are fat-soluble, meaning they are only absorbed into the body with fat.
So... when you're eating that sub-200 calories of leafy greens and a few other veggies, you're not feeling full AND you're not even really reaping the benefits of those veggies.
They probably taste bad without the dressing, you're shooting yourself in the foot by trying to under-eat and getting "hangry" later in the day, and you're not even absorbing the beneficial parts of this unpleasant experience.
Ouch. Yeah... eat your healthy fats.
Some good ideas:
- Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans)
- Seeds (sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds)
- Grass-fed, organic cheese (if you can handle it)
Plus, those fatty toppings just help add even more textural depth to that salad - yay for happy tastebuds!
5: Mix in a badass, clean dressing
This is another way to get in those healthy fats, if you decide to skip step 4 (but don't do that 😉).
Usually if I don't have an extra healthy fat from step 4 to include, I'll just use more dressing to get that fat count up a bit.
I really like Primal Kitchen brand salad dressings for trustworthy ingredients, but I obviously also love to make my own.
My go-to recipes I go for are:
Once you've mixed in your salad dressing... you've just finish THE PERFECT SALAD!
Hope you enjoyed it - keep this one in your pocket for when you get bored with your salad routine.