by Jarueba Taylor
Salad is simple, cost effective, and great for people trying to regiment themselves on a nutritional plan. The ironic thing is people often try and use salads to improve their nutritional intake, without quite knowing what they are doing. The ironic thing is, salad usually does not have a lot of nutritional value. The problem is a lot of people assume because they are choosing a salad, they are automatically meeting their nutritional needs. While there is no doubt about the benefits of green foods, salad mixes usually consist of mostly lettuce and only miniscule amounts of the other vegetables and green foods. Take your average variety of house salad mix, generally it will have in it one or a few varieties of lettuce, a few diced up carrots, baby greens, and occasionally some cucumbers and or chopped up tomatoes.. The nutritional value of a cup of lettuce works out to be about 8 calories, less than a gram of protein, less than 2 grams of carbs, and 0 grams of fat. Lettuce by itself does not provide a lot of nutritional bang for it’s buck. The thing lettuce provides the most is water.
The key to any nutritional plan is to eat enough nutrients that the body can make changes. If a person is trying to gain weight but not eating enough calories, then in turn they will not gain weight. The same holds true for trying to lose weight. Even if a person is restricting their caloric amount in an effort to lose weight they still need a certain amount of calories for the metabolic process to happen. Eat too few calories and instead of losing weight the body hoards the small amount of nutrients it receives. In some cases the body will even start to cannibalize it’s own muscle tissue instead of body fat. While some people will say avoid salad all together, I say with a little understanding and creativity salad can be a great addition to any nutritional plan.
While the idea of adding salads to a person’s diet is great, it goes beyond just getting a bag of salad mix and eating it down. A general rule of thumb when it comes to eating salads is “be selective about what you put on”. The more creative you can be with your salads the better a salad can be for you nutritionally. While a plain salad offers little adding a few accoutrements can not only jazz up a salads taste but also it’s nutritional value. Here are a few tips when creating a salad:
Protein gives a salad power.
Protein is an important nutrient no matter what your nutritional goals may be. By adding some to your salad, you are only making achieving your goal a little easier. The number one thing someone can do to boost the power of their salad is to add protein. Protein is the one nutrient that the majority of salads significantly lack. Adding things like eggs, chicken, steak, tofu, or fish will boost the protein power of any salad. Try to add 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of some sort of protein to your salad for a good protein upgrade.
The more colors a salad has the better.
When it comes to salads, think of a crayon box “The more colors you have the better it’s gonna be”. The more variety of different colored vegetables that you can put in a salad the better nutritionally it will be for you. Carrots, tomatoes, onions, all types of peppers, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and beans not only add color to your salad but really increase the vitamin and mineral count of a salad. While adding fruits will add a lot of color, because of the sugars adding colorful veggies would be a better opion. A range of colors will always be more nutritious than just greens.
Don’t be a fat head.
While most of the time salads do not have enough protein, the opposite can be said for a salad’s amount of fat. Too much fat in a salad can turn a healthy meal into a high calorie binge out without a person even realizing it. Some of the biggest culprits for a salad’s high fat are nuts, cheese and dressings. While dressings and can be great tasting and add lots of flavor to a salad, they can also add a lot of calories. Strive to achieve most of your calories from what you actually put in your salad and not on it. Be sure to also use foods like nuts, avocadoes, and oils sparingly. Things like these flavor adders also tend to run high in the fat department. This may not be as big of an issue if your goal is to put on weight but definitely something to watch if your restricting calories.
Try and keep your salads lean and colorful.
Sure adding accoutrements can do wonders for a salad’s taste but too much of a good thing can be just as detrimental. Things like fried chicken, melted cheese or bacon can improve a salad’s taste but they are also adding a lot of extra unhealthy calories. If you’re going to load your salad up with extras make sure to stick with mostly lean proteins and vegetables. I spoke earlier about the benefits of added protein to a salad, but extra veggies also can be quite beneficial. A lot of veggies are calorie dense so you can eat a good amount without adding tons of calories to your diet. Vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are also fiber rich so you stay fuller longer. Vegetables also supply a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals so extra veggies can always be beneficial. Dressings can be an option just make sure to use them sparingly.
Drink water with your salads.
A good hearty salad will contain a lot of vitamins and minerals due to all the vegetables in it. Another thing a good hearty salad will contain is a good amount of fiber. If you are dieting you definitely want fiber in your diet. By consuming a meal high in fiber with water you stay fuller longer. Since fiber is also not digested by the body, drinking water helps it pass thru the system more easily.
This salad packs a protein punch. Most salads are not known for their protein packing ability but this one will give you 18 grams per serving. This salad will also give you a good supply of healthy fats also with its high content of nuts and omega 3 oil.
Protein Packer Salad
(makes 10 servings)
6 cups of spinach
6 cups of romaine lettuce chopped
8 oz grilled chicken breast
4 hard boiled eggs
¾ cup sliced extra lean 5% ham
½ cup of almonds
½ cup of cashews
½ cup cut up carrots
½ cup tomato sliced up
½ cup shredded cheese
½ cup raw broccoli
4 tbsp of omega 3 oil
- In a pan lightly grill the 8 oz of chicken breast. Remove from fire and cut into strips
- Take hard boiled eggs and cut them into slices
- In a large bowl mix spinach and romaine
- Add broccoli, cashews, almonds, ham, garlic oil and carrots to spinach and lettuce mix
- Add in grilled chicken and mix again
- add half of the cheese evenly over the mix
- Add egg slices over the top
- Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top and give one final mix to the entire thing and serve
Serving size: 8 oz
Calories: 265 grams
Protein: 18.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 7 grams
Fats: 19 grams
Fiber: 2.3 grams
Here is a fruit salad that not only is a yummy treat but also packed with immune boosting antioxidant fruits. This salad will also give you a nice little bit of protein.
Dressing Things Up-
Salads can be a great additive to your diet when you are trying to make nutritional changes. They can be beneficial for trying to gain or take off pounds. If you want salad to fit in your nutritional plans, you must learn to balance your nutrition. Use a variety of foods to change and improve the taste of your salads but be sensible about what and how much you’re putting in your salads. Make sure your salad has a good amount of protein, does not have an overabundance of fat, and has plenty of veggies offering vitamins and minerals.