Updated: Jul 23
If the idea of eating a salad is as exciting as a trip to the dentist for you, then have no fear friend! I am here to tel you, that you can, in fact, make friends with salad.
It wasn't until recently (and out of necessity) that I discovered how delicious and satisfying salad could really be for a meal, rather than just the mediocre image of the 'lettuce tomato cucumber' trio that gets pushed to the side of the plate that most of our minds may conjure. It sounds silly, but with a little creativity and know how, it can be so simple to creating something that is both healthy and satisfying, and on a budget! Here are 5 simple tips to try:
1. Know your portions
Portion size is everything, whether you are trying to lose, gain or maintain weight. I love the visual from 'symply too good to be true' below, which puts the ideal plate into simple terms:
Of course, there are certain foods that are better to include or exclude depending on your preferences or any health concerns. To find out more about what specific foods or dietary changes may benefit you, chat to your local GP or Nutrition professional.
2. Get creative with what's in season
Seasonal eating is a wonderful way to support local and potentially save money. Here is Australia, we are especially lucky to have such an abundance of fresh produce at our fingertips. Availability may vary depending on where you are living, so it's worth heading to your local supermarket or farmers market to see what's in season. For example, in the warmer parts of the year, opt for salads with tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, corn, beetroot, baby potatoes or squash. In the cooler parts of the year, winter veges like kale, carrots, and broccoli can be eaten roasted, steamed or fresh and tossed together with your choice of protein, some crunchy wholegrain croutons or some quinoa, and a dressing of choice if you so choose. The possibilities are endless! Here are two recipes that are my absolute favourites! Both low-GI, and easily tailored to suit your own preferences.
Easy Summer Salad
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas, rinsed, drained and cooled
1/4 medium avocado, sliced
1/2 a large tomato, chopped
1/2 a regular sized cucumber, sliced
2 Tablespoons of feta cheese, crumbled
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1-2 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of chopped lettuce
Salt and pepper to taste
In a bowl, whisk lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper until combined (it should thicken slightly and look opaque-ish)
Add chickpeas and toss together until coated well.
Add other ingredients and combine. Serve immediately.
Easy Winter Veg Salad
Veg of choice - I particularly love carrots, brussell sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, red onion or eshallots, red capsicum (if affordable) and kale.
A few cloves of garlic (i usually add about 6 or 7 here), unpeeled but smashed
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 teaspoons of sweet paprika (optional, but so worth it!)
1/2 cup of cooked Quinoa* (see note)
Squeeze of lemon (optional)
In a roasting dish or pan, throw in your veg and garlic cloves, making sure they are relatively even sized to ensure even cooking.
Drizzle veg with a good glug of olive oil, and a good sprinkle of salt, pepper, and sweet paprika. Mix and place in a hot oven to roast until cooked to liking. (I usually put my oven at full whack and take them out when the smell gorgeous and a little bit charred).
I usually eat it at this point as is, but you can also toss it through some quinoa and add a squeeze of lemon and a little extra pepper.
*NOTE: Quinoa is great for adding an additional protein boost and will help satiety.
3. Don't be afraid to include left-overs
Oh yes! let your creative banner fly free! stale bread can be made into delicious croutons in under 10 mins. Boil an extra egg or two and add to your salad next day for an extra protein and omega boost. Toss last nights leftover veg with some salad leaves, or add in some left over roast chicken or steak (leftover steak? not in our house haha). Part of encouraging a mindful approach to food and nutrition involves eating sustainably - treating your food with love and care, being resourceful with leftovers to minimise wastage and to save money, and finding ways to create healthy food habits to nourish your body, not just to meet your daily energy requirement. Have a chat to others for ideas, consult your mum or grandmother for tips on making a meal last or using up leftovers, and tailor it to suit your liking or palate.
4. Swap the creamy calorie-laden dressing for a simple vinaigrette
A good salad dressing can be a secret weapon in transforming your salad from woeful to wow! A basic vinaigrette traditionally comprises of 3-4 Tablespoons of good quality oil (such as extra virgin olive oil), 1-2 Tablespoons of vinegar, mixed with salt and pepper to taste. Try experimenting with different oils (like toasted sesame oil or sunflower) and vinegars (like apple cider or even just a squeeze of your favourite citrus). Feel free to add in some herbs or spices of your choosing. Below is a versatile dressing that uses mustard, and works really well as a potato salad dressing replacement!
Mustard and Chive Dressing
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1-2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon of finely diced red onion or shallots
1 Tablespoon of fresh chives, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
Combine ingredients in a jar and shake well or whisk together until incorporated. Keep refrigerated for up to 14 days.
5. Make it a happy experience!
Mindset is everything! What is your current response when you hear the word 'salad' - excitement? fear? disgust? How can you change that into something more positive? For the affirmators amongst us, this will be your time to shine. Find the joy in making your edible creation - put on your favourite tunes if need be, and enjoy. As you add each ingredient, see yourself enjoying every mouthful, feeling energised and replenished, feel the textures, use your senses to draw in the good vibes. Go on, give it a go! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.