I hate it when I open the fridge and I don’t find what I’m looking for.
Like happiness or perfect abs.
And no matter how old I get I still look in the fridge repeatedly in the hope that a delicious, healthy and completely calorie-free chocolate mud cake has materialized only to find myself constantly disappointed. Is this something we ever outgrow? I mean – does my mum still do this? Mum: can you set the record straight? More often than not I forage through the fridge each morning looking for lunchables; something I can throw together in a matter of minutes to form a nutritionally-sound yet delicious lunch. In our current delightful, warm climate this is usually some form of salad – but not your boring old garden variety. Death before boring salads!
So this month’s how-to article focuses on how to make a super salad – say no to bland, uninspired lunches and start making a salad that will definitely win friends (or at least keep you looking and feeling trim, taut and terrific).
How to make a super salad:
Step 1: Pick your leafy greens (2-3 big handfuls)
Leafy greens are the best place to start with a salad; they’re low in calories but big on nutrition and you can choose bitter or mild leaves to suit your tastes. Don’t get stuck with iceberg lettuce (unless you want to!), think outside the square and go for baby spinach, rocket, kale, wombok (Chinese cabbage), mixed leaves, fresh herbs or a boutique lettuce variety. Go wild and have any combination of these you like.
Step 2: Add some colour tip: the more the better (about 2 handfuls)
Different coloured vegetables contain different compounds so to maximize the spread of nutrients try cramming as many hues into your salad as you can; aim for 3 different coloured vegetables as a minimum.
Red: tomatoes, capsicum, beetroot.
Yellow: capsicum, squash, corn.
Orange: pumpkin, carrot.
Green: cucumber, zucchini, asparagus, celery, peas/beans.
Purple: eggplant, cabbage, Spanish onion.
White: mushrooms, fennel, radish, cauliflower.
Step 3: Protein Power (a piece the size/thickness of your palm)
Protein will help you feel more satisfied and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Any meat will work – try grilled chicken, boiled eggs or canned tuna as budget-friendly options or thinly-sliced steak or pan-seared salmon for a more indulgent option. Also don’t feel limited to getting your protein from meat – try tofu, lentils or seitan for a vegan variation. Marinating your protein can add a delicious extra dimension to your salad too! Try a combination of olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and fresh herbs.
Step 4: Carb It Up (about the size of a tennis ball or ½ a cup)
Complex carbs will not only add bulk to your salad but provide your body with a long-lasting supply of slow release energy. Better yet – choose carbohydrate sources that are naturally rich in protein like chickpeas, lentils or quinoa. Other great options include roast potato, cooked and cooled rice, noodles or pasta, cooked beans or homemade croutons from wholemeal sourdough. Get a bit freaky and try adding fruit! Sultanas, melon and berries are all great additions to a savoury salad - particularly when balanced out with saltiness such as cheese, cured meat, olives or salted nuts.
Step 5: Fats (the size of a golf ball or 1-2 tbsp)
Adding fats will provide your diet with fat-soluble vitamins to your salad and make a well-rounded, nutritionally-balanced meal. As long as your portion is in check there is no problem adding healthy fats in the form of a garnish of nuts and/or seeds, a scattering of olives, cubes of cheese or slices of creamy avocado.
Step 6: Dressing (1-2 tbsp)
The salad dressing you choose can elevate a bowl full of random ingredients into something really special. Mayonnaise dressings are very calorie-dense without providing much beneficial nutrition so if you’re after creamy dressing instead try a greek-yoghurt base, a nut butter base such as a tahini or blending avocado with lime juice and herbs into a creamy avocado dressing. If you’re after something light try a basic vinaigrette (combine 1 part olive oil to two parts vinegar of choice) and add herbs, spices and other aromatics for more flavour Experiment with different types of vinegar – red or white balsamic, apple cider, red wine or verjuice are all interesting, flavoursome choices.
My favourite all-round dressing is super easy; for two servings whisk together:
1 tbsp red wine or apple cider vinegar
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 grated clove of garlic
Salt and pepper, to taste
It’s zingy and fresh without a bunch of unnecessary additives and goes well with pretty much any salad.
You can mix and match your salad ingredients according to what’s in season and what’s in your fridge/cupboard. Try a roasted vegetable salad, and Asian-inspired noodle salad and classic French nicoise salad or just the most beautiful rainbow vegetable bowl you can make. Let boring salads become a thing of the past!
Do you have a favourite salad? Or an interesting flavour combination? I'd love to hear about it!
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