The USDA dietary guidelines recommend 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day for adults. With warm weather and in-season produce now is a great time to make salads part of your meal plan. Salads can be a meal starter, side dish or main entrée. See below for suggestions on how to build the perfect salad. The possibilities are endless!
Start with your leafy greens. Lighter green lettuce like iceberg and romaine have a more mild flavor but are less nutrient dense. Darker greens like spinach and kale have a stronger flavor and provide more nutritional benefits.
Almost any vegetable can be tossed into a salad. Try carrots, celery, cucumber, peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, onion, mushrooms, peas, or shredded cabbage.
Fruit can be a nice addition to a salad as well. Apples or pears provide a mild flavor with a crunch. Other ideas include fresh berries, orange slices, pineapple, peaches, grapes or avocado. Also try dried fruits like cherries, craisins or raisins.
Be sure to add a protein if you are going to make the salad your main entrée. Cooked chicken, steak, shrimp or fish are good choices. For a meatless salad, try hard boiled eggs or beans like chickpeas, lentils, black beans, or cannellini beans.
Grains provide extra protein, fiber and a chewy texture to all the crunch of a salad. Try brown rice, quinoa, barley, farro, or wheat berries.
Other salad add-ons to boost the flavor:
-Try adding nuts or seeds like almonds, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds or sesame seeds.
-For a savory flavor, add olives, pickled banana peppers, pickled beets, or capers.
-Various types of cheeses, such as feta, bleu cheese, gorgonzola, goat cheese, grated parmesan or shredded cheddar or mozzarella, change up the flavor and add texture.
Making your own dressing can be easy and eliminate added sugar, salt and other preservatives that might be in a store-bought dressing. A basic vinaigrette is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar with a pinch of salt and pepper. For a different flavor, add fresh or dried herbs, minced onion or garlic, mustard or mustard powder. For sweetness, try a small amount of honey, agave or maple syrup. Combine ingredients by whisking in a bowl, shaking in a jar or blending in a blender or food processor.
Check out these websites for recipe ideas on salads: