Now that summer is here, I’m more inclined to cook light meals and am always looking for interesting ways to make salads and other locally available foods. Many clients tell me that they have an easier time managing their weight during summer partly because they are outside and active and also because so many seasonal foods don’t come with a high calorie price tag.
When it comes to salads, they can be full of amazing nutritious ingredients or they can be minefields of fat and calories. Here are tips to healthy-up your salad:
• Instead of making a typical iceberg lettuce salad use some dark salad greens, including Romaine lettuce, spinach, arugula or a spring mix. The darker greens are higher in beta carotene, folate, potassium and more. Nutritional powerhouses for about 10 calories in a cup of greens.
• There are lots of other vegetables that provide crunch and flavour, are low in calories, high in fibre and nutrient rich. Try red or green peppers, cucumber, mushrooms, carrots, snow peas, broccoli and/or cauliflower florets, red onions, tomatoes. As you add them, your salad is getting healthier, tastier and the calories are still very low.
• To save time, when you cook vegetables like cauliflower or broccoli at dinner, make extra to add to the next day’s salad.
• Make a pasta salad with whole wheat varieties and use brown rice for rice-based salads. Consider other nutritious grains such as bulgur, barley or quinoa.
• Salads become a main meal with the addition of grilled chicken, shrimp, fish (canned or fresh), lean beef (leftover from yesterday’s barbecue), hard boiled eggs, low fat cheeses. A three ounce cooked chicken breast (no skin) adds about 125 calories, 5 shrimp adds about 40 calories and a hard boiled egg adds 75.
• Create a vegetarian salad by adding lentils, chickpeas, edamame or cooked beans like black beans or kidney beans.
• Nuts and seeds have many nutritious properties including healthy fats but you should keep the portion to a couple of tablespoons. Two tablespoons of almonds or pine nuts, for example, add another 100 calories.
• To save both calories and sodium, make your own salad dressing. Use a fruity extra virgin olive oil or a flavourful nut oil such as walnut oil and you won’t need much to get delicious taste. Balsamic or other flavoured vinegar plus herbs and spices will also up the flavour without calories or salt.
• When you add dressing to your salad, start by adding a very small amount, toss the salad well so the leaves are coated and you probably will end up using much less.