Even though they don’t sound particularly exciting, salads have a lot going for them. The vegetable and fruit components are nutrient-dense, filling, and low in calories. And there’s no reason to stick to the same boring trio of lettuce, cucumber, and tomato – a few simple additions can take your salad from dull to delicious in no time.
Eat a rainbow
We’re advised to eat a range of brightly colored fruits and vegetables every day, so why not try to include as many of the colors of the rainbow in your salad as possible? As an alternative to tomatoes, add rings of bell pepper, slices of apple, or a smattering of pomegranate seeds for a splash of red. For a hint of yellow, toss in sweetcorn kernels, diced bell peppers, or yellow zucchini spirals. Meanwhile, grated carrot, shavings of butternut squash, or mandarin segments give you an orange component. Green grapes, asparagus, spinach, spring onions, or tiny florets of broccoli are some of your options for extra greenery. For a purple finish, choose red grapes, beetroot, blueberries, or red cabbage.
Add some pulses
Peas, beans, and lentils are an excellent source of plant protein, which helps to make your salad a more complete meal. If you follow a largely vegetarian diet, the likes of lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, haricot beans, fava beans, cannellini beans, and borlotti beans all provide useful amounts of iron. Leguminous vegetables are also high in fiber, keeping you feeling fuller for longer after your salad. To make preparation easier, canned pulses are a convenient option, particularly when you don’t want a pan of beans cooking away on a hot day.
Try sliced avocado
Nutrient-packed avocados are a popular addition to salads. Avocados are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, and the fat content also aids the uptake of carotenoids found in many salad vegetables. Additionally, avocados are packed with vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps to protect your body’s cells from damage that otherwise contributes to chronic health problems and aging.
Although carbs often get bad press, adding a few tablespoons of cooked whole grains to your salad can boost your nutrient intake and protect against ill health. A moderate intake of whole grains, such as brown or wild rice, quinoa, bulgar wheat, or barley, may help you achieve a healthy body weight and reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Besides promoting feelings of fullness, their soluble fiber content aids blood sugar control and cholesterol reduction. The cardioprotective effect of whole grains may be attributed to their fair amounts of antioxidants and B vitamins.
Dress with seeds
To finish off your salad, sprinkle some toasted pumpkin, sunflower, or sesame seeds for extra crunch. Seeds are rich in essential fatty acids, which your body can’t make on its own. Additionally, if you want to up your zinc intake, pumpkin seeds are a good bet, while sunflower seeds are rich in vitamin E and sesame seeds boost your calcium intake.
There are even more ways to take your salad up a notch. Try adding roasted vegetables, olives, nuts, seafood, eggs, or lower-fat cheeses such as cottage cheese, mozzarella, or feta. Let your imagination run wild with fresh seasonal produce, artisan vinegars and flavored olive oils.