By STEPHANIE FAROH MA, RD, CD
Extension Educator-Health and Human Science, Purdue Extension Kosciusko County
On hot and humid summer days, I always love a cool, crisp salad with lots of great vegetables on it. Lucky for us, the fourth week in July is National Salad Week and a great time to spice up our old, boring salads.
Not only are salads a great way to eat your greens and other vegetables, but salads can also be assembled with grains, beans, cheese, and meat. Adding healthy toppings like onions, beans, eggs, cranberries, strawberries and grilled meat can add variety to your salad, and it can contain all of the food groups that your body needs.
Green produce, especially dark leafy greens, are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. These nutrients help with eye health, aid in blood clotting, and can reduce the risk of cancer.
I often talk with people who tell me they cannot eat leafy greens due to the high levels of Vitamin K. They are told by their doctors to avoid them all together as they could have negative interactions with their medication. If your doctor has told you this, please check with them about getting regular, consistent Vitamin K in your diet. Vitamin K is an essential nutrient and is recommended for everyone.
If you are on a medication that reacts with Vitamin K, small, consistent amounts of Vitamin K are necessary. In other words, you should not have a large spinach salad for dinner, but could have a bit of spinach in an omelet for breakfast, romaine lettuce on a sandwich at lunch, and a small side salad with dinner. Again, please check with your doctor before implementing Vitamin K back in to your diet.
The word “salad” makes me think “healthy,” but be careful. A salad is only as healthy as you make it. Be sure to watch how much salad dressing you add. Many dressings are high in calories, fat, and sodium. Make sure to read the nutrition labels on your dressing.
Tips for Building a Healthy Salad
1. Start with a nutrient dense foundation. Skip iceberg lettuce and choose dark leafy greens because they are full in important nutrients. Spinach, romaine, Swiss chard, kale, or a spring mix are great options for your salad base.
2. Add the veggies! Fresh vegetables like peppers, broccoli, carrots, and cucumbers are great toppings for your salad. Vegetables add variety, color, and nutrients.
3. Pile on the protein. Protein gives your body energy and fills you up faster. Eggs, chicken, turkey, beans or tofu contain protein, but just watch how you prepare the protein before you add it to your salad. Grilling or baking is a healthier option than frying.
4. Add dressing sparingly. Unfortunately, many commercial dressings can turn a healthy salad into an unhealthy salad quickly. The full fat dressing (my favorite kind) is okay to use, as long as you watch the amount. Try dipping your salad in the dressing rather than dressing your whole salad with it before you start.
Enjoy Salad Week and try something new on your salad.
Here’s to a healthier you.