What do a lot of people think of when they imagine eating a salad? Boring. Bland. Too healthy? But not everyone knows that there are many foods that can be added to the standard iceberg lettuce that will make the salad much more enjoyable to eat, all the while maintaining the nutritional benefits.
Lettuce: There are many varieties of lettuce, but the two most common are iceberg and romaine. While iceberg lettuce is good for you, it doesn’t quite measure up to the vitamin content of romaine. In a cup of iceberg, there are 8 calories, .5g of protein, .7g of fiber, 10mg of calcium, 78mg of potassium, 1.5mg of vitamin C, 13.3mcg of vitamin K, and 16mcg or folate. Compare that to the 8 calories, .58g of protein, 1g of fiber, 16mg of calcium, 116mg of potassium, 11.3mg of vitamin C, 48.2mcg of vitamin K, and 64mcg of folate per cup of romaine! A good idea is to have both types in your salad.
Protein: It is always a great idea to have some form of protein with every meal and snack. That doesn’t exclude salads! Some good options are low sodium kidney beans, some form of chicken, or even some torn up lunch meat. Some chicken ideas are drained canned chicken, grilled chicken, or breaded chicken. The nutrition content for a serving of kidney beans are 105 calories, 0 fat, 22g of carbs, 8g of fiber, and 7g of protein. While a chicken breast does contain more calories (281 calories to be exact), it does have a substantially more amount of protein and a lot less carbs – 35g and 3g respectively.
Vegetables: One of the most important and beneficial vegetables you can eat is spinach! Not only is it packed with key vitamins and nutrients, but it also contains a large amount of flavonoids, which act as antioxidants. Spinach has also been shown to help protect against eye diseases, slow the age-related decline of brain function, help with inflammatory conditions, and increase gastrointestinal health. So throw in a handful or two of spinach in your salad! Some other vegetables could include cucumber, sliced or shredded carrots, cabbage, tomatoes (cherry tomatoes being very common), chopped red lettuce, raw broccoli, peas, or raw green beans. You can’t go wrong with added vegetables.
Flavoring: Pepper, onions, and even garlic are common added flavors.
Dressing: There are many kinds of salad dressings. Although they aren’t good for you, it is perfectly fine to add a little to your salad, though a dressing made with olive oil would most likely be the healthiest one to chose. Of course, you don’t even have to add a dressing if you salad is made up to par.
Extras: Cheddar cheese and/or croutons. Cheese contains protein, vitamin A and calcium, but does have a bit of fat. While there aren’t really any health benefits to eating croutons, feel free to add some if it will make your salad more enjoyable. Everything in moderation!
Now this is where you mix and match to create your perfect salad. Happy eating!