DSC00480There are those who may disagree , but salad is a wonderful thing.  In fact, it is one of my favorite foods, but just because it’s a salad, doesn’t mean that it’s healthy.  On a recent trip to a large upscale restaurant, I read the nutritional information about some of their salads, and I was shocked to learn that some of their salads contained more calories than I was supposed to ingest in an entire day.  As a result of this information, I opted for something that sounded less healthy, but was actually a healthier choice for me.

So, what makes a perfect salad?  Start with brightly colored vegetables.  Generally, the brighter the color of the vegetable, the more nutrients it contains.  Carotenoids give orange and yellow vegetables their colors, flavonoids provide blue, red and cream colors, and chlorophyll makes greens green. These colorful compounds also provide health and nutrition benefits.  Red and orange vegetables contain the highest levels of vitamin C while green vegetables, like collard greens, spinach, and peas, contain iron.

Since we eat first with our eyes, having a salad that is brightly colored and not monochromatic in shades of green will be more appealing to your eye.  Start with a dark leafy green vegetable like spinach or romaine lettuce.  Next, add in those low calorie veggies that help to fill you up like mushrooms, celery, and cucumbers.  Add color and nutrients with broccoli, carrots, red cabbage, tomatoes, snap peas, etc.  Then, add in some lower fat protein choices such as beans, grilled chicken breasts, low fat cottage cheese, egg, or fish.

Cutting fatty cheeses out of your diet? Try topping your salad with shredded jicama and butternut squash.    Jicama and butternut squash don’t taste like cheese, but they look like it.  As I already mentioned, we eat first with our eyes.  I had a friend argue with me that the salad he was eating had cheese on it because he saw white and golden yellow shreds on top. I had to actually shred some more jicama onto his plate before he believed me.

The final step in making your perfect salad is the dressing.  It does no good to assemble a salad then drown it in a fatty dressing.  Dressing a salad with 2 tablespoons of olive oil mixed with as much of a good flavored vinegar as you want is healthy, but if you are looking for a more traditional salad dressing, check back in two weeks when will publish two of our favorite healthy homemade dressings.

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