You know a big salad is a healthy meal, but the same old lettuce, tomato, and cucumber salad gets monotonous and boring. Varying the ingredients in your salad allows you to shake things up while still getting the nutritional benefits. Fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, and dairy all have a place in salad and let you create a meal that includes items from each food group. Experiment with salad mix-ins and write down your favorite salad ideas so you know what to toss together next time your salad needs a tweak.
Start with lettuce. Red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, spinach, arugula, endive, Bibb lettuce, and even cabbage are full of nutrients and can change the flavor of your salad. Tear your leaves of choice and toss them into a bowl to get started. Don’t stick to just one kind of lettuce. Try mixing together a few different types, or buy a pre-bagged mixture to make things easy.
You don’t have to skip tomatoes and cucumber, but add more to the mix to change your salad and increase your vitamin and mineral intake, including vitamins A and C, potassium, and antioxidants. Stock up on whatever is in season when you go to the grocery store, and chop it into your bowl of lettuce. Bell peppers in any color, avocado, carrots, zucchini, corn, onions, peas, and olives are yummy choices that give you a wide range of nutrients.
Don’t be afraid of putting fruit into your salad. Many fruits, though sweeter, are similar in nutritional content to vegetables. It might sound like a weird addition to your list of salad ideas, but the sweetness balances the bitter taste of a lot of lettuces. Mandarin oranges, apple and pear slices, watermelon, berries, and mango pair well with many vegetables. Try spinach with strawberries or blueberries, mango with avocado and onion, and apples or pears with red leaf lettuce and walnuts.
Cheese makes your salad more hefty and leaves you filled up for longer. Also, it adds protein and calcium to your meal. Add shredded Cheddar cheese, chunks of goat cheese, cubes of mozzarella, or crumbled queso fresco to your fruits and vegetables. Just go easy on the cheese, since many kinds are high in calories and saturated fat. Many cheeses also have an intense flavor, so a little goes a long way.
Adding lean protein to your salad ups the nutrient content and helps fill you up for longer, without the need to reach for a snack between meals. Sprinkle your salad with sliced chicken breast or beef sirloin, both of which have a mild enough flavor to go with whatever your other chosen ingredients are. Seasoned shrimp or salmon are other good choices that give you nutrients and add great taste to your meal. Black beans, chickpeas, walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds are other protein choices.
You might not think that grains work in salad, but add them to your list of salad ideas. Grains are a good source of appetite-suppressing fiber as well as iron and B vitamins. Throw a bit of quinoa or brown rice into your salad. Neither has an overwhelming taste, but will fill you up and enhance the flavor of the other ingredients in your salad.