I hate when people use eating salad as an excuse to eat a bowl of air for lunch. I personally LOVE salad and eat one at least once a day, but my salads do NOT consist of a bunch of romaine lettuce, some plain grilled chicken, and a squeeze of lemon. Having said that, I want to share a few tips for creating a salad that will actually keep you full!
Here is the golden rule of salad-making: make it a meal. If you want a meal to fill you up, it should probably include hearty portions of protein, healthy carbohydrates, and plenty of healthy fats – and a salad is no different. When you are making your salad, try to make sure that you are getting as much energy from your salad as you would from a normal meal!
So, how do you build a salad like a meal?
- Start with a base of leafy greens. You can use any leafy green you like (spinach, kale, arugula, romaine, etc.) – don’t overthink it. I usually use a pre-made mix of salad greens that I buy at the grocery store or farmer’s market.
- Add at least 1 cup of dense vegetables, raw or cooked. My absolute favorite thing is to add leftover roasted vegetables to my salads – Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, and zucchini are a few that I adore. If you want to go the raw veggie route, try carrots, celery, cucumber, or shredded cabbage. I often throw a mix of whatever raw and cooked vegetables I have in my fridge onto my salads.
- Add a healthy source of carbohydrates. Healthy carbohydrates play a huge role in optimal health, particularly for women. Paleo and real-food diets are naturally lower in carbohydrates, but that does not mean that carbs are the enemy and need to be avoided. They are delicious and good for you! Examples of healthy, paleo sources of carbohydrates: sweet potatoes, plantains, winter squash (butternut, acorn, etc.), and all fruit. Some of my favorites: roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash (SO GOOD), plantain chips, diced apples, blueberries, and golden raisins.
- Add a solid portion of protein. I hate when I order a salad from a restaurant and it only has a few cubes of grilled chicken on top. I always add at least 4 oz of protein (usually more like 6 oz) to my salads to make sure I stay full. A few of my favorites: leftover grilled meat or fish (chicken, steak, salmon, pork chops, etc.), shredded rotisserie chicken or slow-cooked meat (like pulled pork or barbacoa), and canned fish (sorry if that grosses you out).
- Throw on some toppings! This is where things get fun. You can add herbs for an extra nutritional punch, olives or sauerkraut for a flavor twist, or nuts and seeds for a little crunch. Make sure at least some of your toppings are healthy sources of fat to keep you full! My favorite toppings: pumpkin seeds, cashews, kalamata olives, mint,
sauerkraut, cilantro, and avocado (the best of all, duh).
- Dress it. Don’t use pre-made salad dressings with nasty ingredients. Opt for
simple dressings that you make yourself (or at least that you could make yourself). I almost always use extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and apple cider vinegar (ACV) or balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, but you could also use: avocado oil + lemon, Primal Kitchen dressings, tahini dressing, dump ranch, Primal Kitchen mayo + lemon, salsa, etc…
- Salt it. This may come as a surprise to some people, but I promise you that every salad tastes better with a good shake of salt on top. Make sure you are using high-quality sea salt (Himalayan pink salt is my favorite).
And voila, the perfect salad! Anyone have a favorite combo to share?!