I really truly love salad. When the weather gets warmer, I have one for either lunch or dinner every day—sometimes both. (Get 25+ recipes for side salads and main-dish salads.)
I always have one or two varieties of lettuce in my fridge, plus I grow my own salad greens. (Find out how easy it is to grow your own salad greens—no garden required!) And if I’m pressed for time, I head to the salad bar at my local supermarket in the morning when I’m shopping for the ingredients I need to test recipes in the EatingWell Test Kitchen.
But it’s easy to pack too many calories into a salad, especially when you’re faced with too many options at the salad bar (thick, rich blue cheese dressing and bacon bits are two calorie bombs that come to mind)! Luckily, it’s easy to keep a salad healthy and satisfying when you pay attention to these four key elements of a power salad:
1. The foundation: Start with 1 to 2 cups of lettuce per serving. (Greens are full of fiber, which helps digestion.) Combine different types to balance textures and flavors. Try a mix of escarole, romaine and radicchio, like we do in Chicken & White Bean Salad (pictured above). Learn about 9 flavor-packed greens to add to your salad bowl.
2. The palette: Add plenty of vegetables for crunch, flavor and color. The more colors of vegetables you add, the more disease-fighting nutrients you get. For example, foods in the blue/purple/deep red range, such as radishes and eggplant, provide anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins, which are associated with keeping the heart and brain functioning well. Find an easy way to get your fill of all the colors of the rainbow here.
3. The fuel: Studies show eating protein helps you feel full longer, so add lean chicken, ham, turkey, fish or beans. Also include starches, such as potatoes, brown rice, whole-wheat croutons or whole-wheat pasta, all of which add nutrients and staying power. These dinner salad recipes are super satisfying!
4. The secret sauce: Fats in the dressing make it easier for you to absorb fat-soluble nutrients like lycopene in tomatoes and lutein and zeaxanthin in yellow and green veggies, including corn and zucchini. I like to make my own salad dressing to bring along so I’m sure to have a healthy option. Get 11 ultra-easy recipes for homemade salad dressings here. Plus when you make your own you can opt for olive oil or canola oil instead of soy oil or sunflower oil, which are found in most bottled dressings and are full of omega-6 fatty acids, too much of which may increase inflammation. Find out which three brands of bottled dressings don’t include oils with high levels of omega-6 fats.
What's your secret recipe for making a power salad? Tell us what you think below.