For many, salads are the quintessential healthy food. They’re easy to make, easy to pack for lunches or dinner, and relatively inexpensive. However, it’s easy to fall into a rut and find yourself eating the same boring salad again and again and again. I’m a vegetable lover and salad enthusiast and I usually enjoy a salad every day for either lunch or dinner. Eating seven salads a week can get monotonous quickly. These are my favorite tricks for keeping my salads new, exciting and delicious day in and day out.
1. Toasted Almonds or Nuts
Toasted almonds add a perfect crunch to any salad. Toast sliced almonds at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes or until slightly browned. I toast large batches of sliced almonds and keep them in a mason jar in my pantry. The airtight seal of the jar keeps them fresh. Almonds add texture and a subtle nutty taste that pairs well with sweet flavors like fruit. My favorite salad is spinach, strawberries and toasted almonds. If almonds aren’t your thing, consider adding chopped walnuts or pecans to your favorite salad.
2. Cheese and Healthy Fats
No, I’m not talking about the sad shredded cheddar cheese at the end of the salad bar. Mix things up with feta cheese for a Mediterranean salad or goat cheese which pairs nicely with fruit. Or sprinkle your salad with a little Parmesan cheese Sliced avocado can add a creaminess to your salad, as well as some healthy fat.
Don’t make your salads a veggie-only zone! Sliced fruit will add sweetness and lots of flavor to an otherwise boring bed of greens. My favorite combination is spinach and strawberries. Blueberries are also great in salads, especially now that they are in season for summer. Pears and mandarin oranges are also popular, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box! I enjoy sliced or chopped apples in my salad, or the tartness of pomegranate seeds or cranberries. I was out on a date with my husband and had an amazing salad with strawberries, blueberries, pineapple and mandarin oranges. My husband joked it was a fruit salad with lettuce and chicken, but it was delicious, and all the flavors complemented each other.
4. Mix Up Your Salad Greens
I love spinach, but I start to get bored after eating it for days on end. My mom feels the same way about Romaine lettuce. She’d buy an enormous package of romaine at a great price from a wholesale store, but be sick of it before the end of the week. I usually buy a large package of spinach and a large package of Romaine lettuce (my two favorite salad greens) and alternate my salads throughout the week. Check out your grocery store’s inventory- spring greens, sweet butter lettuce, or any combination (most groceries sell bags of lettuce mixes) can all be great ways to re-invent your favorite salad.
Complete your meal by adding some protein. Sliced chicken is an easy way to add protein, but don’t be afraid to mix things up with other proteins like steak or tofu. Black beans are a great addition to a southwestern flavors and roasted chickpeas add both protein and crunch. Protein will help keep you full longer, so if your salad is a stand alone meal, protein is a must!
6. Ditch the Bottled Dressing
Do you have a go-to salad dressing you use day in and day out? Cesar, Italian, maybe French or Raspberry Vinaigrette? Even if you are varying ingredients in your salad, using the same dressing can make it feel like you’re eating the same thing again and again. Try something new! Making your own salad dressing is easy. For a simple tangy vinaigrette, mix one tablespoon olive oil, two tablespoons apple cider vinegar, one tablespoon orange juice and salt and pepper. Check out Pinch of Yum’s salad dressings for inspiration or your new favorite recipe. Or skip the dressing all together and opt for a scoop of salsa or guacamole.
8. Add Color
Remember the saying “you eat with your eyes first”? Opt for colorful ingredients like orange and yellow bell peppers, tomatoes, beets, purple cabbage, red onion, olives, berries and fruit. A colorful salad is much more exciting than a plain bed of greens.
9. Skip the Leafy Greens
Not all salads need lettuce as a base! This apple quinoa salad is one of my all time favorites, and it’s a great way to mix things up while still getting a full serving of veggies. Or try cucumber, tomato, red onion and feta cheese for a simple and lettuce-free Mediterranean salad.
7. Get Inspired
Every time I eat out, I browse the salad menu and take note of different flavor combinations. Chefs and restaurateurs spend hours developing delicious recipes, and I would be remiss not to use their creations as inspiration. Adding mango to a taco salad? Surprisingly delicious. Spinach, Bacon and Goat Cheese? It works! Note flavor combinations you find at your favorite restaurants and don’t be afraid to try them at home. The results may surprise you.
10. Pack Ingredients Separately
If you’re packing salads to go, this trick is a game changer. If you toss all your ingredients in the same container when you leave in the morning, by lunch, your salad will be soggy and wilted. Pack your salad components in separate containers and mix your salad together when you are ready to eat. This keeps everything at peak freshness. I have lots of small containers that came with my food storage set that work perfectly to pack my salad ingredients. Don’t have enough containers? Fruits and veggies can usually be packed together without a problem, but keep dressings, cheese, nuts or croutons separate.
I’m always looking for new salad ideas. Do you have a favorite salad or flavor combination? Let me know in the comments below, or shoot me an email. I can’t wait to try your creations!