Salads are the most versatile of meals. They can be small and eaten as an appetizer, or they can be eaten as a main meal. They can be eaten as a dessert when filled with a selection of fruits and sweet veggies, or used as a filling for wraps.
While many of us associate the word "salad" with "healthy," in the standard American diet, the opposite has become much more typical. Healthy salads quickly turn into unhealthy, high fat, dense foods that rob us of our energy and degrade our health. Let's talk about what the main ingredients of a healthy salad should be and what to avoid completely. Then, we'll check out some exciting combinations of foods and flavors we can create.
What salads should have...
High in water content
(Lighter, less dense foods)
Low in water content
(Heavier, more dense foods)
|Examples: ||Examples: |
What to avoid...
- Soy Products
The only soy that should ever make its way into your mouth is non-GMO whole soybeans (also known as edamame). Processed soy meat and soy derivatives are now found in most packaged foods and is the main item in many vegetarian and vegan foods. There is nothing healthy about processed soy. Nix it from your diet completely.
- Liquid Oils
Liquid oils are a 100% fat fractionated product. If you often use olive oil, coconut oil, flax seed oil, avocado oil, or other oils, nix them in favor of getting your fats from whole foods instead (avocado instead of avocado oil; flax seeds instead of flax seed oil, olives instead of olive oil).
If you use liquid oils, use them in very small quantities (no more than 1 tsp. for an individual portion) and aim for:
- Unrefined / cold pressed
- Nut or seed oils (olive, coconut, avocado, walnut, flax seed, hemp, pistachio, etc.)
- Factory-farmed Animal Products*
If you include animal products in your diet, always make sure your dairy is unpasteurized and that your eggs, meat, and dairy come from organic and pasture-raised animals. Seafood should be wild-caught, not farmed. Limit portions to 2-3 times each week at most. By choosing organic and pasture-raised, you help make sure that you avoid purchasing any "factory-farmed" meat. If you are not familiar with what factory-farmed meat is and why you should stay away from it, read the following articles:
- Unnatural Ingredients
Always aim for whole food ingredients that come from nature. If you are including anything from a package, pay very close attention to the ingredient list. If you see chemicals such as flavorings, colorings, artificial preservatives, or something you don't recognize as healthy, then put it back on the shelf and don't look back.
A word about salad dressings...
- Citrus juice and/or rind (lemon, lime, orange...)
- Herbs & Seasonings (sea salt, cracked pepper, oregano, thyme, tarragon, rosemary, sage, turmeric...)
- Vinegar (balsamic, white, apple cider, red wine...)
- Natural sweeteners (honey, coconut sugar, sucanat...)
- Tomato paste
- Garlic / onion / shallots
- Nutritional yeast (for a cheese flavor)
- Liquid oils* (olive, avocado, grapeseed, coconut, walnut, pecan...)
One More Thing
Make sure your produce is ripe when you eat it, or it will be lower in nutritional value and more difficult for your body to digest. Wherever possible, choose organic produce over conventional. Here's why...
Fun Combo Ideas
When it comes to making a salad, have fun mixing and matching your favorite veggies together. Mixing in fruits and dried fruits and trying different combinations of herbs and spices is a great way to make a salad more flavorful and tasty. Experiment and see what tantalizes your taste buds!