Making a Healthy Salad

fresh saladHealth experts say that with all the meats, cheeses, and other excess ingredients, those salads being served in restaurants and fast-food joints are not the healthiest choice. To make sure that you are getting the health benefits of vegetable salads without the hidden saturated fat and excess calories, you need to prepare them yourself. Here are some tips that you can do to prepare your own healthy salad.

Buy the freshest ingredients – Always make sure that you leafy vegetables are crisp and fresh once you buy them. You can also opt for bagged salad leaves or pre-cut vegetables, but make sure that these are free from preservatives as well as check the expiration date, and leave the noodle or crouton bag locked (don’t use them).

Vary your salad greens – The basic vegetable used in salads is the iceberg lettuce, but that alone does not have enough nutrition to get your through the day. Boost your intake of vitamins and minerals with dark, leafy vegetables like arugula or watercress, romaine lettuce, baby spinach, mixed spring greens, red lettuce, mache, radicchio, and endive.

Use various vegetables – Aside from leafy greens, you could also put on healthy veggies like carrots, cucumber, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower florets, tomatoes, celery, asparagus, green beans, red onion, scallions, artichokes, sweet peppers, sliced mushrooms, jicama, beets, fennel, and eggplant.

Try adding fruit – A touch of sweetness from fruits brings out wonderful flavors and valuable nutrition to your salad. Among those that would go great with salad are grapes, mandarin oranges, mango, strawberries, blueberries, pear, apples, plums, peaches, nectarines, cantaloupe, watermelon, and blackberries. You could even try dried fruits like raisins, or even opt for a fruit salad instead.

Try adding beans – Vegetarians can get their protein fix by adding beans into the salad, such as black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, white beans, and edamame (immature soybeans in a pod). Beans are also a great alternative to chicken.

Choose lean cut meats – If you prefer putting meat into your salad, make sure these are lean cuts from low-sodium deli meats like ham and Canadian bacon. You could also try grilled or roasted chicken and turkey.

Try "fatty" fish – A good alternative to meats would be fish that are rich with omega-3 fatty acids that are beneficial to your heart such as tuna or salmon. Always choose fish that are water-based instead of those stored in vegetable oil.

Put healthy cheeses – Be choosy if you want to have cheese on your salad and use reduced fat cheeses, cottage cheese, or even fat-free shredded cheese. You could also try strong-flavored cheeses like Gorgonzola or Parmesan, which can bring out so much flavor even in small quantities.

Limit the eggs – If you want eggs in your salad, remove the yolks or at least put half of it into your salad.

Use nuts sparingly – Although nuts may be high in fat, its nutritional value is undeniable. Almonds and walnuts contain heart-healthy fats, and can even bring a pleasing crunch and texture to salads.

Try making your own dressing – If you do not like the usual low-fat bottled salad dressings, you could try plain non-fat yogurt, fat-free mayonnaise, low-fat buttermilk, or fat-free sour cream as your base for a creamy dressing. Just add your own herbs, spices, and flavoring. If you want to make your own vinaigrette, remember that the usual ratio of oil to vinegar is three to one. However, you can reverse the ratio and make three parts vinegar to one part oil for a healthier dressing. You could also replace some of the oil with water, fruit juice, or fat-free broth. Add garlic, herbs, shallots, and ginger to add taste and body to the vinaigrette. Other alternative dressings that are rich in nutrition include honey, mustard, or even pureed fruit.