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.)
RELATED: Kid-Friendly Salad Bar Ideas
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 (use the code STEWARDSHIP for 10% off at that site!)
- 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 DressingPrint
Greek Salad Dressing
- 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
- 1 squirt Dijon mustard
- 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 1/2–1 tsp. salt (Use the code kitchenstewardship for 15% off of your first purchase)
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1/2 tsp. oregano
- 1/4 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
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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!
Need More Baby Steps?
Here at Kitchen Stewardship, we’ve always been all about the baby steps. But if you’re just starting your real food and natural living journey, sifting through all that we’ve shared here over the years can be totally overwhelming.
That’s why we took the best 10 rookie “Monday Missions” that used to post once a week and got them all spruced up to send to your inbox – once a week on Mondays, so you can learn to be a kitchen steward one baby step at a time, in a doable sequence.
Sign up to get weekly challenges and teaching on key topics like meal planning, homemade foods that save the budget (and don’t take too much time), what to cut out of your pantry, and more.
8 thoughts on “Monday Mission: Make Your Salads Count & Healthy Dressings”
I’ve enjoyed your web-site and using some of your good suggestions.
As an Italian family, we often make our salads home-style (with my husband’s wonderful home made salad dressing already mixed in). So, what to do with the left overs? I have a special container in the freezer that contains small left over bits of suitable veggies for my spaghetti sauce…and it’s into that container I put the left over (usually organic) salad veggies, after they’ve been pulse-chopped in the food processor.
The lettuce and other veggies don’t noticeably change the taste of the spaghetti sauce and the spices are Italian ones…so, I’m saving a little $ and adding extra nutrition as well as sneaking in veggies that some little family members don’t eat.
What a great tip! So glad that you’ve been along on the journey here at KS…thanks for commenting!
Just a few personal salad notes prompted by your delightful Monday post:
1. My solution to how to have everything on the table on time? Don’t set a specific dinner time! If your family has the time (and it should), instead have a “gathering time” at which point everyone comes to the kitchen, begins conversing about the day, and helps to finish things up (and gives you a bit of lee-way on timing dinner!)
2. One way to reduce nutrient loss and slow spoilage of veggies cut in advance is to slice, but then reassemble (or leave assembled) the individual vegetables. Zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, ect. can be cut into slices but left with the slices stuck together so that the cut surfaces aren’t exposed to air.
3. Finally, a great way to add flax seeds to your salad is by mixing them into a dressing, especially if your family objects to the texture of the seeds when sprinkled on top directly. Ground flax works well in a creamy yogurt dressing; add plenty of (fresh or dried) herbs and likely no one will notice the flax at all. Tasty, too!
We eat some salads, and when we do we make them count! But the time cruch is an issue. I’m looking forward to reading about your tips to put it together faster.
As for cost if you can find an organic farm that puts together a CSA basket each week, it can be a lot cheaper. I finally found one (God totally opened the door for us on this one!) and we now get a huge overstuffed 1/2 bushel basket each week for $19. Sometimes they even have a few melons to add. With all the different greens and veggies to choose from, we are experemnting much more than before.
.-= christina´s last blog ..Happenings… =-.
I have been eating more salads lately–and I’ve started to LIKE them! One thing I do to help myself is wash and tear up all the lettuce that will fit in a nice big zipper bag as soon as I get it (along with some paper toweling to soak up moisture). I’ve been cooking chicken and chopping it up ahead of time, and keeping toasted nuts and seeds on hand, too. Sure makes for a quick salad when I need something healthy! Can’t wait to see what you’ve got for us this week!
I love making homemade salad dressings. I rotate recipes so that we get several different kinds of oils and ingredients, with no funky stuff hiding in there. It also is awesome to reduce the waste factor: instead of buying bottle after bottle of dressing, I reuse jars from other stuff that I’ve used up. I am always delighted when friends come to dinner and rave about these super easy dressing recipes. It would make a great Christmas gift for the cooking-challenged people in our lives, and a cute jar with a ribbon, hand-delivered, isn’t so shabby either! Thanks for the nice post.
.-= leslie´s last blog ..Vintage Digs =-.
Seriously, that’s a great idea. I’m absolutely thinking about that for Christmas gifts now!
Since making a move to whole foods, I have been more into salads and trying to pack them with a variety of things. Sunflower seeds were something I started adding, and I think they add such a nice nutty flavor. But they definitely are time-consuming to put together, especially when I’m really hungry for lunch. I’ll enjoy reading your tips this week on how to throw a salad together.
.-= Liz´s last blog ..No Flushing Allowed =-.