A salad may seem like the healthiest choice for lunch or dinner, but your salad may secretly be sabotaging your diet efforts. Creamy dressings, meats, cheeses and croutons can pile on the calories and cause you to pile on the pounds. Instead, transform your salad into a healthy eating hero by adding ingredients that pack a big nutritional punch. Here are some super nutritious ingredients that will turn any salad into a healthy meal.
An ancient grain that is bursting with plant-based protein and plenty of fiber, quinoa (keen-WAH) is the perfect addition to your salad. Protein is an important part of any meal, but that doesn’t mean it has to come from a chicken breast or strips of steak on your salad. Half a cup of quinoa will add 12 grams of complete protein to your salad, as well as a nutty flavor and a fluffy, light texture. Another reason to add quinoa to your salad is the high fiber content; six grams of fiber for a half cup of the grain. People who eat plenty of fiber have a lower risk of developing heart disease, strokes, diabetes, obesity, and gastrointestinal disorders.
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a legume that can add a hearty element to your salad, and take the place of animal proteins. A single serving of chickpeas provides plant-based protein and fiber, in addition to important vitamins and minerals like molybdenum, manganese, and folate. A study showed that participants who ate more chickpeas were more likely to consume fewer snacks and overall calories throughout the day, as well as reporting reduced appetite, greater food satiety (the feeling of being full), and higher food satisfaction. Add one tablespoon of chickpeas to a single serving of salad for an addition of only 46 calories, two grams of fiber and two grams of protein.
3. Dark Leafy Greens
If romaine or iceberg lettuce has made up the bulk of your salads, you are missing out on the nutritional benefits of dark leafy greens. Adding greens like spinach, kale, and arugula can take an ordinary salad and transform it into an extraordinarily nutritious meal. Research shows that darker lettuces have more vitamins and antioxidants, like vitamins A, C, K, folate, and iron. Darker leaf lettuces can be less tender than you are used to, so cut them into thin ribbons when adding to your salad, or massage them with a bit of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Giving your salad a massage may sound strange, but a couple of minutes rubbing the leaves will start to break down the cellulose fibers, turning kale and other tough lettuces into soft and silky bites.
Poor parsley. Always used as a garnish, then pushed to the side of the plate and neglected. Parsley is another dark leafy green, and just like kale and spinach, can add some nutritional punch to your salad. Parsley is rich in antioxidant flavonoids that can protect cells from free radical damage, and half of a cup will provide over 500% of your recommended daily amount of vitamin K. Vitamin K is needed for proper blood clotting, as well as bone and joint health. As an added bonus, parsley contains chlorophyll, which can naturally freshen your breath! Choose the italian, flat-leaf variety of parsley; the curlier variety is more bitter.
Avoid creamy salad dressings full of fat and calories, and run far away from the “fat-free” bottles of vinaigrette; they typically contain a ton of added sugars. A lemon a day will definitely keep the sugar, fat, and calories away from your salad. Lemon adds a brightness to your salad that will enhance the natural flavors of the vegetables (or even fruits) that you add. Lemons, like many other citrus fruits, are a great source of antioxidant vitamin C that is needed for collagen production and skin health. They are also alkalizing and can help balance the body’s pH. Go ahead and squeeze lemon juice straight onto your salad, or make a restaurant-style vinaigrette at home with only three ingredients. AddÂ Â lemon juice toÂ Â olive oil, and stir in a touch of mustard. Whisk and drizzle a tiny bit over your salad, tossing until all of your greens and vegetables are lightly coated.
Creamy dressings, sugary store-bought vinaigrettes, meats, cheeses, and croutons can really sabotage your salad. By adding some plant-based proteins, fiber-rich foods, plenty of dark leafy greens, and a squeeze of lemon, you can turn your salad into a healthy meal that will keep you full and satisfied.