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Monday, January 6, 2014

You Can Eat a Salad, and Enoy it, too!


Everyone knows that salad is the healthiest thing to eat. It is packed with vitamins and minerals, it is light on your stomach and yet still includes the fiber necessary for healthy digestion. However, it can be really hard to make myself eat a salad some times. My apprehension usually stems from my encounters with the cafeteria variety of salad- scant iceberg lettuce under a pile of shredded carrots and a baby tomato or two. Not fun! Not fun at all.

However, salads can be a really fun and interesting meal when you get the chance to make one yourself or eat at a place that is salad friendly.

(As a side note, I asked for a "dark green" salad with lots of extra chopped veggies at Kings once and they gave me the most wonderful salad I had ever eaten at a restaurant. You never know what a restaurant will serve you if you ask nicely and are willing to pay an extra couple of bucks for the extra produce.)

Here are some tips that I have found make salad much more interesting, palatable and fun to eat!

1) Dark leafy greens are the way to go

While iceberg lettuce may be a nice tortilla substitute, it doesn't do much in the way of flavor or texture. (It also does not have as much nutritional benefit as its darker leafy green relatives) Spinach, baby lettuce, kale, cabbage, swiss chard, bok choy are all delicious in a salad and have much more to offer in the way of cancer-fighting antioxidants.

2) Massage that kale

Kale is often steamed to soften the rough texture of the leaves. This is a nice way to prepare it, but it is more nutritious when eaten raw. My raw food friends introduced me to a new way to prepare kale that softens the texture but does not require heating. I simply lightly cover the kale in olive oil, add a little salt and squeeze it with my hands until it takes on a lighter texture. It is tempting to suffocate it in olive oil, but it really only requires a moderate amount.

3) Put some nuts on it!

I sometimes like to grind almonds, cashews or sunflower seeds to add texture to salad. This is especially good on a kale salad. I use a coffee grinder, although I suppose you could do the same thing with a food processor.

4) Think beyond the greens

Have you ever tried chopping up a cauliflower and eating it with no accompaniments other than a little olive oil and salt? It is so delicious! Avocado, tomato and basil are equally worthy of talking about. Leafy greens are important, but it is okay to forget them every once in a while and just eat some good old chopped veggies.

5) Add some beans

Beans are a great way to add plant-based protein! Additionally, beans add a lot of flavor and texture to a salad. Whether you get them out of a can, sprout them or cook them yourself; the protein will do you some good!

6) Herbs

I really like adding some fresh herbs to my greens. It adds a lot of spice and makes everything so much more fun. I have found that they are the most delicious when cut up very fine and mixed in with the other greens.

7) Less can be more

Salad dressing is great, but sometimes lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil or sea salt is all you need. I have found that a little lemon juice over an avocado makes a delicious salad dressing. This can be especially nice when you are going out to eat, as any restaurant that has avocados should be able to serve you a lemon with it.

8) Back to salad dressing

Salad dressing can make things so much more interesting. I use the healthier store brands sometimes, (especially lately, as I have been too lazy to make my own) but home made salad dressing is much better and really is not a challenge to make. I like to use olive oil and vinegar as my base and blend in a few herbs and spices. Mustard is an emulsifier, so that is a good thing to add if you want a creamier salad. (Nuts or seeds will also make it creamy!)
I once went through a few tubs of greens in a week because I loved this salad dressing so much! (and then I got sick of it, but I really should make it again because it has been a while)

9) Grow your own!

Lettuce and kale are easy to grow, and thrive in environments such as a planters or raised beds as well as in the ground. Fresh greens are light years tastier than the days-old greens one may find at a store! If you are somebody who eats a lot of salad, growing some of your own greens can save some money.

10) Share that salad with a friend!

While you are taking care of your body and eating that salad like a champ, it is okay to forget about yourself for a moment and check in with another person. Being social and connecting with others is a really important part of being healthy. Even if that other person is your cat, (Although he probably will not share the salad with you unless it has tuna on it) meal times are a great time to embrace the other people in your life and spend quality time with them.

11) Have fun! This is not serious time- there is plenty of time for that elsewhere. This is you-time. I love the possibilities involved in preparing food, and it feels good to know that I am eating food that is nourishing and healing.

Enjoy your fabulous salad!

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