Spirit Mind & Body
When I started trying to eat healthy the first thing I tried to implement was eating more salad. Of coarse. The salad is the poster boy for healthy eating. When we want to eat healthy, we want to eat salads, that's natural. Salad is a great meal to get a variety of raw vegetables into your diet. Naturally, we all want to include more veggies when we make decisions to eat healthier. But it's not always as easy as opting for a salad instead of a pizza. The need for filling food is a real devil and sometimes salad can leave us feeling unsatisfied and maybe a little bored.
When I started eating salad I struuuuggled getting it down. I have issues eating leaves, and sometimes I found myself gagging near the end of the bowl. Gross. I dreaded salad. It was miserable. Now, a few years later, I eat salad almost every single day for lunch. And I look forward to it and I enjoy it! What's my trick? How did I make the switch? Below are a few of my pointers to make salad a little more palatable, and little more satisfying and therefore more available in your every day life. If you struggle with liking salad, or it just doesn't "sound good" when it comes to meal time, try these tips. They helped me, I hope they help you. Leave comments below to let me know what you think, or add in your tips if you have them.
1. Experiment with leaves (and not the medicinal kind....)
It took me a long time to admit/realize that I have a personal problem with iceberg lettuce. My issues with salad weren't with salad, they were mainly with iceberg lettuce. Its a common lettuce that's used in tons of salads and I don't like the flavor and taste of it (unless its on a hamburger). I can now admit to myself that there aren't many places in my life for iceberg lettuce. I turned to spinach and kale (they are so hot right now), and although they were more palatable to me, they were not the golden ticket. The more I experimented with different kinds of leaves, the more I found my specific salad niche. I know that I like green romaine and arugula, preferably mixed together. I now know that I don't like red romaine or iceberg-and buying those pre-made salad packages weren't working for me. I became very specific about what kinds of leaves I wanted to eat, and this made a world of difference.
Pairing certain leaves with other leaves is also important. I enjoy kale or spinach much more when they are paired with another leaf-and I don't like them together. Get specific about what flavors pair well with those leaves. More on pairings later.
2. Dress it up!
Dressing is everything. Making changes to the dressing was a game changer for me. Usually my family go-to growing up was Hidden Valley Ranch. Not an awful choice, but after a salad or two I would get tired of the taste of it. I like ranch, but you know, I realized that despite its popularity its not my favorite. I tried extra virgin olive oils, my favorite being from the Temecula Olive Oil Co. The mixtures of oils and vinegars is endless, and having a few oils and a few vinegars kept me interested for a while. The more I changed it up the more interesting my salad became. My husband and I shop at Sprouts for our groceries and we ended up finding Opas greek yogurt dressing that we both LOVE! We have probably tried every type of salad dressing that Sprouts and other local stores offer. I recently found this brand Tessemae's from Whole Foods. And I learned that there is a light tasting olive oil-mixed with Meyer's lemons is very tasty. Every salad I decide which one we I am in the mood for and voila, a salad that sounds good.
Salad dressing is worth the splurge. Some of the oils and dressings that I like the most are a little on the pricey side for me. But veggies are really cheap compared to other packaged shelf items, so when I started replacing a lot of our more pricey shelf foods for cheaper veggies, the splurges on things like dressings or other items was a trade off. Splurge on the dressing that makes you look forward to eating that salad. It is worth the trade off!
3. Change up your toppings and ingredients-include an occasional indulgence
When it comes to toppings, its just like everything else so far. Change. It. Up. Every week I make a different salad, and the things I add into each salad changes. Every week I make a big bulk salad that we dish into Tupperware for lunches. So every week I make a different kind of salad. Sometimes I need to have some kind of indulgent topping that makes me look forward to my salad. Sometimes its cheese, sometimes its bacon, sometimes its a nut like almonds or cashews, sometimes its avocado. Sometimes I chop up cilantro and add that into my salad. Sometimes I chop up parsley and add that in. I use different sources of protein like steak, pork, chicken, or hard boiled eggs. I use different kinds of bell peppers to add a variation of flavor. Maybe this week I'll use edamame. Or I'll buy a tub of bleu cheese to sprinkle on my salad. You have to get creative and make every salad a new kind of salad. And don't be afraid to indulge a little with the cheese or bacon or avocado every once in a while. Note, every once in a while. Don't put it on every salad, but maybe only one or two salads a week. That should be sufficient to keep it interesting.
Here are few suggestions to try on your next salad:
1/4 C Brown rice (cooked)
1/4 C quinoua (cooked)
1/4 C black beans from can
Sprinkle feta or bleu cheese
Frozen Edamame (steamed)
Chopped up celery leaves (pictured below)
Chopped cilantro or parsley
Crushed raw walnuts
Whole roasted almonds
Over easy egg (the yolk makes a fantastic dressing)
Olives - black or green or other marinated variety
Marinated chopped tomatoes
Sprinkle with lime or Meyer's lemon (less tart)
4. Pairing makes happiness in your mouth
Food pairing is an exciting way to enhance food. We do it with beer and wine, and the best restaurants you go to do it with the most unlikely things. When we wed certain foods together on our plates, it can make for a happily ever after in our mouths. Like bacon and avocado. My mouth waters just mentioning it....We are all naturally experimental creatures. So get experimental and start putting foods together.
Something that helps me get out of my salad comfort zone is talking to other people about what they do with their salad. I find out so much from coworkers or family members about what goes well together. I also get good ideas for ordering a salad when I go out to eat. So start chatting up other people about how they prefer their salad and take a daring dive into something new. Here are a few of my own suggestions: I love bleu cheese dressing with a hard boiled egg. I love steak, arugula, and bleu cheese crumbles. I love ranch and feta cheese. Or cilantro in my salad with lime squeezed on top. Try drizzling lemon on your chicken with a light tasting olive oil. Add a sprinkle of a spice or seasoning like garlic power. Just experiment and if you find something you like repeat it; which leads me to the last tip.
5. Repeat the things that you know you like
Once I find something I like I try it again. When I find something that is working for me, sometimes I stick to that routine for a few weeks until I am no longer craving it. This routine becomes part of my repertoire. Shopping for it is easy and preparation becomes quick; it becomes a go-to for later. Once I have found a few variations that I like I can cycle through them and not ever get bored of salad. When I do find myself thinking my salad is dull or I'm getting bored, that is when I go back to experimenting or talking to friends to get inspiration. Switch things up but have a few back ups that you can rely on.
So there you have it! Those are my tactics for keeping my salads interesting. I had to drudge through a few boring salads every now and again to get to where I am now. If you are in that stage, just know that it doesn't have to always be that way. Hang in there and give salad a chance. It is a good way to get a healthy dose of raw veggies at least once a day. They can be delicious and spectacularly filling if you can trudge through the experimental stages. Once you get a handle on it, it will get so much easier. You can do it. A healthy diet can happen one salad at a time.