Stuck in a salad rut? These smart prep tips and novel fixings will fill you up and delight your taste buds.
Salads get a bad rabbit-food rap, but they don’t have to be skimpy. Creating a satisfying salad that eats like a meal and is nutritionally sound can be easy and fun. By selecting seasonal ingredients with intention, you can toss together a flavorful and exciting mix that sustains you during practice and until your next meal. Use these simple tips to combine power foods for both satiation and pleasure, then give our four meal-worthy salad recipes a try.
Salad Add-Ons to Curb Your Hunger
If you’ve ever felt starved an hour after having a salad as a meal, think back on what was in that bowl. Greens tossed with tomato, cucumber, and low-fat dressing might seem like plenty, but the combo is low in four key hunger-busting components: protein, complex carbohydrates, fat, and soluble fiber. Here’s why you need enough of each.
Lean proteins (tofu, shrimp, eggs, beans) help curb hunger by signaling the body to secrete leptin, a hormone that controls feelings of satiety. Women should aim for 46 grams of protein a day, while men need 56 grams—or around 15 to 2o grams per meal. Mix and match your favorite sources to reach the goal. For example, combine 1 hard-boiled egg (6 grams) with 1/2 cup tofu (1o grams), and you’re there.
Quinoa, amaranth, millet, teff, and other whole grains provide essential minerals and some amino acids. “And they’re a great way to add complex carbohydrates to your meal,” says Laura Lagano, RDN, an integrative clinical nutritionist based in Hoboken, New Jersey. Complex carbohydrates digest slowly, releasing a steady stream of glucose (blood sugar) for sustained energy during a busy day of errands or a rigorous yoga practice. According to Lagano, about 1/2 cup cooked whole grains is adequate for a meal.
A little calorie-dense fat (from nuts, seeds, or oils) goes a long way toward staving off hunger, says Lagano, who recommends about 3o percent of your daily calories come from fat. As a complement to other salad ingredients, fat also aids in absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, E, and K, which are abundant in greens like spinach, mesclun, romaine, and kale. And fats boost flavor as they coat the tongue and capture the tastes in low-fat vegetables, herbs, and spices that would otherwise quickly evaporate. Top your salad with 2 tablespoons of nuts, seeds, or oil, such as olive, coconut, avocado, or sesame.
Foods high in soluble fiber swell as they absorb water in your digestive system, and linger longer, leaving you feeling full for hours after you’ve eaten. Foods high in insoluble fiber, on the other hand, pass quickly and relatively intact through the gastrointestinal tract for a laxative effect. Most high-fiber foods contain both fiber types, but soluble is more important for hunger control. On average, your meals should contain at least 6 to 1o grams of total fiber to meet your daily needs of 25 to 3o grams. Two cups of mixed greens contain only 2 grams of fiber, so hit your target with high-soluble-fiber salad ingredients like 1/4 cup artichoke hearts (5 grams), 1/2 cup beans (6 grams), or 1/2 cup raspberries (4 grams).
Spice Up Your Salad with These Flavors
Herbs and spices add substantial flavor. Plus, they offer nutrients—mainly vitamin K for blood clotting to prevent excess bleeding and for building bones—without drastically increasing calorie load.
Store fresh herbs in a plastic or mesh produce bag with a dry paper towel to prevent wilting. Keep dried spices in a cool, dark cabinet—heat and direct sunlight can damage their nutrient-rich pigments and essential oils, where flavor resides. Use each spice as suggested below, combine two or more in dressings, or mix with chopped greens.
Although you are likely familiar with the sweet basil commonly used in Italian dishes, the herb comes in many varieties—lemon, Greek, French, Thai, and more—all with slightly unique flavors and a hint of anise or licorice. Beyond pasta, basil pairs well with berries, watermelon, greens, zucchini, and tomato es; sprinkle the herb over dressed salads containing any of the above.
With a mild onion flavor, chives also impart a hint of saltiness. They pair well with sweet and mild fruits and vegetables, such as tomato es, corn, pears, and carrots. Add a tablespoon of chopped chives to flavor your standard red-wine vinaigrette.
With its wonderfully strong floral note, cilantro brightens Mexican or Asian salads made with peaches, melons, peppers, corn, potato es, beans, avocado, or macadamia nuts. Toss these fruits and vegetables with thinly sliced cilantro leaves and stems, then drizzle with your favorite oil-based or creamy dressing.
This bright and invigorating flavoring combines well with seafood, and herbaceous greens like spinach and kale. For fresh zest, use a fine-toothed grater or microplane, and add to creamy dressings. Opt for organic lemons when possible, and wash your fruit before zesting.
Mild parsley, with its aromas of pepper, celery, and black licorice, go es with just about everything, making it the easiest herb to use in salads. Start by adding 1/4 cup to any oil-based or creamy dressing to ramp up freshness and to add hints of pepper and celery. Choose Italian flat-leaf parsley, which has a better aroma compared to curly.
A pungent herb, thyme should be used in moderation (start with 1/2 teaspoon fresh) with grilled veggies, cooked mushrooms, and beans. For dressing, thyme pairs especially well with lemon when mixed with extra-virgin olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Toss with cooked or raw cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, or cauliflower.
This anti-inflammatory spice often used in curries can go with sweet or savory salad mixes. To make a golden seasoning salt that’s perfect for salads, mix 1/2 tsp ground turmeric, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper. To kick up a dressing, whisk 1/4 tsp ground turmeric into your favorite recipe.
About the Author
A classically trained chef, certified yoga teacher, and a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Jennifer Iserloh is the best-selling co-author of 50 Shades of Kale and has appeared on the Today show and other CBS and NBC programs to discuss nutrition.