By: Melissa Altman-Traub MS, RDN, LDN
Salads are a terrific light meal or side for a hot day. You can enjoy delicious vegetables and more without heating up your kitchen from cooking. Here are some great ideas to build nutrient dense salads with a “plant slant”:
- Look for deep colored leafy greens like romaine, kale, spinach, arugula, Swiss chard, spring greens, or radicchio for more nutrients like vitamin A, iron, and calcium.
- Summer is a great time to include some seasonal fruits like blueberries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, or grapes in your salad. These add lots of flavor and sweetness as well as vitamin C and fiber.
- Include something crunchy, like vegetables: carrots, red cabbage, radishes, or celery to name a few. Or try a sprinkle of seeds or toasted nuts for extra fiber or protein. Almonds in particular are high in calcium.
Croutons are usually made from white bread with butter or oil, salt, cheese, and seasonings. Try making your own healthier version. Start with whole grain bread. Slice it into cubes, mix with a little olive oil, add Italian seasonings, and bake at 400 degrees for 5 – 10 minutes. Stir and check every few minutes until crunchy, but not browned.
- Making an entree salad? Include lean protein sources like chickpeas, kidney beans, or grilled tofu. Adding a little nuts or seeds provides protein too.
- Incorporate good fats: sliced avocado is rich in monounsaturated fat, potassium, and fiber. This can help keep you fill until the next meal. Olives also high in monounsaturated fats but stick to a few as they are high in sodium (salt).
- What to look for when selecting a salad dressing. Read the Nutrition Facts label for:
-no added sugar or less than 2 gm. per serving
-no or little saturated fat. Using a vinaigrette style dressing instead of a creamy dressing can help.
-not too high in sodium: try for 200 mg. or less per serving. This is a challenge to find in commercial salad dressings.
Best yet, make you own! Try olive, walnut, avocado, or canola oil with a vinegar you like and fresh or dried herbs. And here are some easy recipes:
Melissa Altman-Traub MS, RDN, LDN is a nutrition professor, freelance writer, and recipe developer and blogs at: https:/melissatraubrd.com
You can follow her on Instagram at melissatraubrd.