Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to maximize your dinner salad (or start eating one if you don’t already).
If you’re watching your weight, research shows that people who eat salads eat fewer overall calories at the meal than those who don’t. It’s not all about calories, but it’s nice to fill up on something healthy that won’t go to your waist rather than dinner rolls and desserts.
Lettuce has some health benefits, but it’s a lot of water no matter if you buy iceberg or Romaine (but Romaine is still better for you!). You’re not going to get enough nutrients from a plain lettuce salad to last you to the next meal, unless you dress it up. Your challenge today is to use your lettuce as a carrier for more nutrient-dense foods. (Or, if you don’t eat salad at all, pump up your side veggies – or start eating salad if it would be a good thing for you.)
Healthy Salads Need Healthy Dressings
Be sure to make your dressings count. A Fat Full Fall shares the scoop on why you shouldn’t be afraid of eating fat. I smile when I hear people say that veggies are just a vehicle for butter and cream. Do you agree? Even if you don’t, lettuce tastes a lot better with other stuff along for the ride.
When it comes to vegetables, fat is necessary for our bodies to assimilate nutrients like beta-carotene (carrots, anyone?) and other fat-soluble vitamins. If you eat carrots by themselves, you’re not benefiting from them like you should. Your salad needs fat, whether it’s in the dressing or the nuts and cheese on top.
Healthy Salad Dressing Options (using Extra Virgin Olive Oil!)
- Homemade Caesar Dressing
- Creamy Garlic Dressing
- Asian Toasted Sesame Dressing
- Homemade Italian Dressing
- Ranch Dressing or Dip
- plus Greek dressing below in this post!
Healthy Salads Need Healthy Toppings
Here’s a salad at our house:
Notice all those other veggies! There are some Super Foods in there, and some plain old veggies that I just enjoy. This not only makes my salad more nutritious, but it’s tastier too. I have more fun eating a salad with a lot of flavors knocking into each other than one mostly dominated by lettuce and dressing.
- Sunflower Seeds
- Colored Peppers
- Red Onion
- Flax Meal
- Pea Pods
- And THEN Homemade Dressing!
The only downfall: salads aren’t very frugal. Vegetables have a higher price for nutrient-value than things like eggs, beans and yogurt. But if you can afford them – and if you’d eat too much junk otherwise – indulge in a well-crafted salad as we enjoy the end of summer bounty!
A salad goes great with End of Summer Garden Vegetable Soup.
See my condiments post for other healthy and/or frugal topping ideas.
Frugal Gifts: Salad Dressings!
A lot of people give cookie mixes in cute quart jars as Christmas gifts. That feels like it’s against my real food morals, so I don’t – but I have been known to make big batches of homemade salad dressing and wrap them up!
In fact, my frugal and healthy homemade gift for my in-laws SAVED our dinner salad one Christmas!
As we were unloading everything from the car, my jar of dressing for my festive holiday Greek salad fell out and smashed all over the driveway. Disaster! I did the next best thing: I unwrapped my in-laws’ Italian dressing that I made them as a gift, tweaked it to get a little closer to the Greek, and we enjoyed dinner. 🙂
Want that recipe?
A Festive Christmas Greek Salad
A salad is more about composing beauty and balancing interesting flavors than following a recipe. Sometimes the best salads are born of inspiration and availability.
Last Christmas I wanted to make something healthy and festive, so my first idea went something like this: “What do I have that is green or red?” I ended up putting together….
- Romaine and spinach, washed and torn
- firm red apple, chopped in bite-sized pieces
- dried cranberries
- crispy walnuts
- feta cheese
- later we added chopped red onion, but it’s not very kid-friendly
I figured out a great way to tweak my homemade Italian dressing and make it Greek, and it was just perfect:
Homemade Greek Salad Dressing
- 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
- 1 squirt Dijon mustard
- ½ c. extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- ½-1 tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- ½ tsp. oregano
- ¼ tsp. marjoram
- 1 clove crushed garlic
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- Mix in order with a whisk.
- Serve with Feta cheese over salad greens.
- Can keep at room temperature.
- (The feta makes it definitively Greek. If you were serving all the dressing at once or within a day or two, you could add the feta to the oil and refrigerate. I wanted shelf stability, so the feta went into the salad itself.
For a Festive Holiday Salad:
Romaine and spinach, washed and torn
Firm red apple, chopped in bite-sized pieces
(I’m thinking chopped red onion would be a great accompaniment, although not for the weak of heart)
Top with Greek Dressing
I am excited to find some new salad ideas over at Naturally Knocked Up, where Donielle is hosting the third course of the progressive dinner Whole Foods for the Holidays. (I hosted last week with appetizers.) We’ve been going through her spicy homemade dressing like crazy at our house – it’s delicious!