By Margo Graf
Salads get the reputation of being lame. Known as “the food my food eats” and not quite qualifying as a real meal. There are obvious nutritional reasons to choose salads over other dishes, but there are other reasons to eat salads, too. Most notably, because they taste good.
I have created such beautifully grilled romaine salads that I would bet money it could turn a cattle rancher into a vegan. Okay, maybe not totally vegan, but at least I could change some long-standing opinions about healthy foods being bland or gross. And yes, you can grill lettuce! Who said eating salads could not be manly? On the contrary, I have also been served salads that consisted of warm, steamy lettuce, old tomatoes, and browned carrots. This is a disgrace, and perhaps one of the reasons salads have such a bad rap.
So, I have created a breakdown for preparing a “real” salad. Pick one or two from each number, toss together, add olive oil, salt, and pepper. And voila! It will be tasty, fulfilling, and great for your body and soul. Meat can also be added for extra protein.
Pick and choose your summer salad. (You cannot go wrong, and keep changing up the combination.)
- Lettuce (romaine, spinach, arugula/kale mix)
- Legumes (chickpeas, white beans, lentils)
- Dairy (feta, mozzarella, hard-boiled egg)
- Veggies (carrots, beets, corn)
- Fruits (tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, apple)
- Toppings (quinoa, mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, olives, nuts)
- Dressing (olive oil, salt, pepper)
Adding monounsaturated fats is incredibly important because these fats help the body breakdown and absorb the nutrients (alpha-carotene and beta-carotene) coming from the rest of the salad. By throwing in olive oil, avocado, or nuts, you actually get way more of the nutritional value. This is paramount because these foods protect the body from cancerous cells. The National Cancer Institute suggests that people whose diets are rich in fruits and vegetables such as beans and peas, string beans, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, apples, nectarines, peaches, plums, pears, and strawberries may have a lower risk of developing cancers of the head and neck. Having a balanced, whole diet will also regulate the rest of the body. Therefore, lowering cholesterol, stabilizing blood pressure, better circulation, better functioning organs and muscles… the list goes on.
As a final note, please do not fall for the goopy goo known as Ranch dressing. Yes, it is a staple of American condiment cuisine–more or less the Spam of salad dressings. You can go anywhere in the world and people will be amazed that we use Ranch. Usually, they are a bit more baffled than amazed (until they have a taste on their pizza), but nevertheless it is packed with far too much sodium and calories. It is good, but should be forgotten. So, what to do in place of it? Ceasar? Thousand Island? Blue cheese? There are many options, but the best is the one we usually never use. It is almost too simple: olive oil, salt, and pepper. You would be amazed to find that this easy dressing is tasty enough–in fact, it brings out the other flavors of the salad and drowns out nothing (also mix with lemon juice and pressed garlic). Nutritionally speaking, it is also the best option. So, forget the store bought sweet vidalia onion dressing that contains sugar, soybean oil, xanthan gum and other flavors, additives, and preservatives. You could have the best tasting, healthiest salad in your bowl and then ruin it with a heaping of the wrong dressing. You are what you eat! So be fresh, cool, crisp, raw, earthy, light, and real.