As the temperature starts to climb, so does our willingness to eat salad. A good salad can be an amazing addition to your healthy diet if you do it right. Want to lose weight this summer? Eat salad. But, for heaven’s sake, do it properly (and here’s why).
To be clear, it’s not like the police will show up if you make a false move but can I can give you some advice learned over years working as a personal nutritionist and health coach?
A couple of things go wrong when clients start making their own salads at home (and making them is something I implore you to do as it works out so much cheaper and often more nutritious than anything you can buy in the shops).
The biggest barrier is that clients can’t think of what to put in a salad without it being painfully boring. Here, I’m thinking of the ham, cheese, tomato and radish salads my grandma used to force upon me. A salad is a celebration of loveliness. Don’t’ disrespect it!
The other thing is that clients create their perfect salad of all time. They are throwing absolutely everything into it. And eating it every day. It doesn’t matter how amazing it is, very soon you’re going to get sick of it. So then it’s ‘salads don’t work for me’. Pretty soon, you’re back in the (not going to lie) less healthy world of the sandwich.
Instead, take the strategic approach used by the likes of Pret A Manger, whose salads I love. (Insert your favourite other people making salads on a commercial level.)
Do they put every possible ingredient into a single salad? Of course not. People would quickly tire. No one would visit their shops. The end.
Instead, they find tasty combinations of a handful of ingredients, giving them variously an Italian, Spanish, Japanese, French or Greek spin, for example.
So this post is all about how to make your salads interesting and sustainable so you actually want to eat them. I’m going to give you a list of stuff to have in the fridge and cupboards to make putting your salad together a breeze — don’t dare even pretend you can’t find the 5 minutes of a morning (or even the night before) to prepare something decent.
There are things you might want to prepare in advance (frozen, pre-cut up roasted veg — you are literally putting it in the oven, not watching it or attending to it and it takes 2 minutes of your time tops, so enough already).
OK, golden rules:
1 Pick the leaves. Romaine lettuce, lambs lettuce, baby gem, oak leaf, endive, spinach, chicory, radicchio, rocket, watercress, red cabbage, bagged leaf mix.
NOTES: iceberg lettuce contains virtually no nutrients and it is possibly the dullest and most tasteless of your options. Rotate your greens, have different ones every day/week.
2 Add unlimited non-starchy veg (but remember the rule employed by the professional pre-made salad makers on switching up the variety!) This includes Raw red onions, spring onions, cucumber, tomatoes, avocados (½max.), peppers, celery. Roasted asparagus, red onions, peppers, courgettes, aubergines. Steamed asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans.
3 One portion (fist size) of starchy veg (optional) Raw carrots (grated). Roasted sweet potato, squash/ pumpkin, beetroot, butternut squash, sweet potato.
4 Protein amounting to one portion (palm-sized, unless mentioned below): Cooked poultry/meat chicken, turkey, beef, pork, lamb. Fish tuna (tinned or steak), salmon, (tinned, smoked, fillet), trout, hot smoked (flaked), prawns. Cheese (30 g/person): mature cheddar (grated),
Roquefort (crumbled), feta cheese (crumbled), goat’s cheese, parmesan shavings, halloumi (grilled, baked, fried). Pulses (tinned) kidney beans, butter beans, cannellini beans, flageolet beans, chickpeas, lentils (pouch/tinned). Nuts walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, flaked almonds. Other eggs (boiled), tofu.
5 Add a garnish. One tablespoon (optional) jarred antipasti like sundried tomatoes, roasted peppers, olives, jalapeños, artichokes. Seeds like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds. Herbs parsley, basil, coriander. Dressings — 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp vinegar, 1 tsp mustard, salt, pepper. OR 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, salt, pepper.
That, my friends, is the secret.
Here’s some specific inspiration for you…
a couple of tablespoons (max) of flavoured, pre-cooked basmati rice (I’m more than a tiny bit in love with Tilda’s black bean, jerk & coconut rice).
Happy lunchtime, folks! Is it that time already? I’m getting pretty hungry…
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