The not so humble salad is making a come-back
Eight ways to enrich your salad and keep up with the in-crowd
It’s time to ditch those tasteless salads we compel ourselves to eat under the banner of healthy eating and instead reward our taste buds with a salad bursting with flavour and full of colour!
Here we celebrate the trend for diverse, seasonal salads rich in nutrients which are fast becoming de rigueur at the dinner table.
A salad is not just an accompaniment; it can be the meal itself. Watch out though – some salads can be calorie heavy and carry a high-fat content – if your salad is laced with ‘extras’ such as creamy dressing, croutons, blue cheese or bacon then it will be less healthy than you think!
“But your salad doesn’t have to be dull to be healthy,” says AXA PPP physiologist, Raj Kundhi, “if you choose produce that is in season and mix tastes, colour and textures then it isn’t too difficult to create a filling salad that’s nutritious and flavoursome too”.
Here are some tips from Raj on ways to zing up your salads:
Think about the base
The classic combo of lettuce, cucumber and tomato doesn’t always have to be the base of a salad.
Roasted or steamed vegetables can bring an interesting and tasty dimension full of texture:
- Try roasted peppers – they’ll give plenty of sweetness and contain antioxidants which are good for your skin
- Immunity boosting roasted squash is so versatile and full of vitamin C and magnesium
- Give beetroot or onions a try – diversity is key!
Wholegrains, along with beans and pulses are good for your heart and can fill you up too:
- Try quinoa – it’s low in fat, a good source of protein and gluten free
- Chickpeas lend a nutty flavour if roasted with spices – they’re fibre rich which can help regulate your blood sugar too
Raw vegetables, grated into your salad are vibrantly coloured and can add texture:
- Try adding aniseed tasting fennel – it’s rich in iron
- Cabbage, celeriac and carrots are good antioxidants and will add depth to your salad.
To give your salad that extra crunch, nuts and seeds are the foods to add. They contain essential fats to help manage cholesterol and give a boost of protein too. Nuts and seeds are calorie high but a spoonful (approximately 30g) sprinkled on your salad can help promote a healthy heart:
- For that lovely crunch try adding a few walnuts – they are rich in omega-3
- Partnered with chicken and avocado, sunflower seeds are fabulous – they are also high in omega-6 fats
- For healthy bones, toasted almonds do the trick giving an extra depth of flavour along the way
- If you feel like an Asian experience, try sesame seeds with a dash of reduced salt soy sauce
Go big on flavour
Seasoning not only adds flavour but can be good for you too. Ditch the salt and try other seasonings:
- For that extra flavour-kick garlic and chilli are just the ticket
- If its zing you’re after then try a squeeze of citrus – it’s full of vitamin C
- Pesto or hummus are healthier substitutes for creamy dressings
- Herbs, whether in a dressing or just sprinkled on, are tasty and healthy too
Make a meal of it
A salad isn’t just an accompaniment it can be the main event – top it with protein like some grilled meat, or fish and it immediately becomes a main meal. Just swap for tofu or tempeh as a veggie option.
- Grilled skinless chicken or lean beef is always a favourite
- Try salmon or mackerel for extra omega 3
- Cooked lentils are delicious and full of protein
- Add cheese or hardboiled eggs – these are both healthy – but don’t have too much!
Mix it up
The cornerstone of eating a balanced diet is variety:
- Try the palette of flavours from sweet to salty, bitter to spicy
- Experience different textures from raw to cooked and soft to crunchy
- A rainbow of colours is the key – the more colours you add, the more vitamins and minerals you will eat
- Add dark and light leaves – the darker the green the higher the iron content. Leaves such as kale and spinach are great and tasty too.
Make your own dressing
A dressing can help to bring the whole dish together. Try making your own as it’ll be healthier and full of flavour:
- Olive oil is great as a base for dressings; it is also good for your heart. Just add your favourite herbs, citrus juices and spices
- Mix in some flavours like garlic, balsamic vinegar, mustard or chilli to give added dimension
- Unusual additions like sweet pomegranate molasses are worth experimenting with – it goes well with middle-eastern flavours
Choose seasonal produce
Try to choose seasonal produce, as flavours will be at their best and prices generally lower. Have fun seeing which combinations you prefer:
- For a tropical salad try creamy avocado with melon, orange, mint and lime
- Flavour up a quinoa or chickpea salad with pomegranate seeds
- When asparagus is in season, it’s fabulous in a salad along with a poached egg.
Sweet and savoury is always a good combo:
- Waldorf salad is the classic mix of apple, grapes and walnut
- For added sweetness try adding some segments of orange or pomegranate to a savoury salad
Fruit salads are always good as a sweet treat:
- Add a touch of balsamic vinegar and mint or basil to strawberries
- Watermelon and mint go well with blueberries
Click here for some exciting recipes to try
Diet and nutrition centre – AXA PPP healthcare
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