I love ordering salads at restaurants. Restaurants have all these ingredients to mix together into tasty entre salads. I’d order a salad and wish I could come up with a way to make them as tasty at home.
Turns out I can. And it’s not as hard as it looks or require as many ingredients as I thought. Certain ingredients morph well and let you make a variety of salad options.
Before we get started on the ingredients, I must share two tools I use: a large mixing bowl and a salad chopper.
Why a mixing bowl? When I eat salad for a meal, I want it to be a MEAL. Not some little side salad (side salads are fine, as long as I’m serving it along side something else). To make these salads as big and a protein packed as possible, I make them in a mixing bow. The mixing bowl gives me lots of room to mix up my ingredients, too.
To get my greens finely chopped, I use a chopper. Do you need this? No. You can shred up your greens with your hands if you like or use some other tool. But this tool isn’t that expensive, I use it all the time, and it doesn’t take up that much room.
Okay, let’s get mixing!
+Some sort of greens. I like spinach (I chop it up using the chopper), and I also love this “slaw” I get at the grocery. It’s broccoli and carrot slaw, and I love the texture in my salads. I don’t like taking a giant bite of lettuce. Chopped up spinach and the slaw give a nice crunch and bite.
+Some type of seasonal vegetable. Lately I’ve been using butternut squash since it’s in season and easy to get. I buy the pre-chunked cubes at grocery and roast them (Coat the cubes in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes until fork tender). I’ve also used sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, carrots, etc… (mostly roasted or pan sauted). Mix, match, or just use one.
+Some sort of grain. You can leave this out if grains are not your thing. I like to make a batch of quinoa and toss a little in my salad. I like the texture it adds. You could do tabbouleh, couscous, rice, etc… Remember, these are starchy, so if your goal is fat loss, omit or just use a small amount for that texture fix.
+Add some crunch. I like pumpkin seeds, slivered almonds, chopped walnuts, etc… A little bit goes a long way.
+Hummus (or tzatziki). I prefer hummus, and I buy it from the store. This takes the place of salad dressing. You can also do hummus and tzatziki.
+Some good cheese. I mean good cheese. Something with a strong taste like feta, goat cheese, sharp cheddar, etc… If you go bland (like American cheese), you will need a lot more to get a good taste. If you use a good quality cheese, a little will do you.
+Some protein. I love meat, so I do meat. If you don’t like/don’t do meat, pick your favorite vegetarian option with some protein. I like to add bacon, chicken sausage, ham cubes, shredded chicken, etc….
+Additional items: chopped up apples, a few dates, peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, grapes, avocado, etc…
It took me some trial and error to find my favorite combinations. But I made a vow to not eat any more tasteless salads (or food!) without compromising my healthy habits, and this mixing bowl salad does just that. I am super full after this salad (I pile on the greens and make the greens the biggest helping), and I feel satisfied from all the protein and rich sources of good fat. I think the “secret” is just adding a little bit of some of those other ingredients (like the quinoa) to beef up your salad without compromising your goals.
One other note: I prep the pieces at the beginning of the week. That way, when it’s time for lunch, I just dump it all in.
What do you like in you salads? How can you adapt a less healthy salad to make it work for you?