I remember my thoughts on salads at the very beginning of my journey. I instantly thought I was depriving myself of a good meal. Wow, has my mindset changed over the years. It took some time for me to develop taste for my favorite ingredients, but I’m glad I was patient.
Eating a salad most days of the week has significantly elevated how many servings of vegetables I eat a day. As a matter of fact, if I eat a salad, I’m guaranteed to hit my goal of at least five servings of vegetables for the day. You should get at least three servings in one meal just from choosing a salad!
In order to stay consistent every week, it’s key to make sure what you’re making is satisfying, otherwise eating a salad for several meals a week will get boring quick. When you find yourself getting bored of your healthy meals, you will always want to go back to your comfort food choices. Trust me, I’ve been there many times on my journey.
Here are six key steps I took to consistently eat salads most days of the week.
Step 1: Choose Your Base
Every week at the grocery store, I buy the convenient pre-washed box salad. Most of the time, I buy the spring mix. When I am no longer craving salad, it’s because I’m sick of eating the same base. When spring mix is getting old, I’ll buy red romaine, butter lettuce, baby kale, spinach, or even the broccoli slaw to use as a base. Romaine lettuce should be the bare minimum base choice. Iceburg lettuce unfortunately doesn’t provide any nutrients because it’s mostly water. Skip it!
Key tip for being consistent: pay attention to when you are getting bored with your base and be sure to mix it up so you can keep this habit going forever.
Step 2: Add Crunch
This is my second favorite step because I love a good crunch! It mixes up the texture of the salad and adds beautiful color to your meal. My favorites: red cabbage, broccoli slaw, sliced celery, or slivered almonds (see more in step 4).
Step 3: Pick Your Protein
Protein is essential to staying full with a salad. If you just eat vegetables for your meal, you will be starving sooner rather than later. Two ways to pick your protein: grill a few items up on Sunday before your work week or buy something that’s been conveniently already cooked in your grocery store deli. My top three choices: chicken, taco meat or canned tuna. Other options like salmon, steak, or shrimp are great options too!
Option 3: Use your dinner leftovers for lunch the next day and just make a side salad to pair with it. I do this for at least three lunches a week such as leftover meatloaf, chicken thighs or a bun-less burger.
Step 4: Enjoy a Serving of Fat
Fat brings every meal more flavor. Plus, it can also help you stay satisfied longer. Pick 1-2 choices for your salad (pick two small servings if you are skipping carb dense items like quinoa, dried fruit, other fruit. If you want a carb dense option, pick one small serving of fat.)
My favorites: a small scoop of pumpkin seeds, slivered almonds or sunflower seeds paired with ½ a small avocado. Delicious!! Cheese would also fall into this category.
Step 5: Add Something Juicy
This is optional, but I’ve found this elevates the satisfaction level of my salad. My favorite: a small handful of shredded beets, tomatoes, 2 marinated artichoke hearts or roasted bell pepper. Plus, any of these options add more color!
Step Six: Change The Texture Of Your Base
Have you ever enjoyed a chopped salad? I invested in a salad chopper and it’s been a game-changer when I’m sick of regular salads. Something about chopping it up keeps me engaged in eating salads every week.
One last fun tip: buy yourself a few nice, large “salad” bowls.
I remember early on in my vegetable journey loving the big salad bowls at nice restaurants. For me, it just makes eating a salad more fun. In the picture posted, I own two of these bowls from Crate & Barrel. They were around $5-10, but it they are big enough to fit 3+ servings of vegetables without overflowing the bowl.
What About Dressing?
I remember when I first started eating salads, I loved your typical salad dressings like ranch, French, or thousand island. There are two ways to go about this. First, start weaning yourself off these choices. I started by stabbing my fork in a small container of dressing, then stabbing my salad. This will cut down on your calories significantly. Eventually, you’ll want to replace these items with something you’ve created on your own.
Tip: if your store bought dressing has soybean oil, vegetable oil, or canola oil, look to change this out.
Next, start making your own dressings! I purchased a dressing container to create my own from home, but lately, I’ve just been using a drizzle of balsamic vinegar from Williams Sonoma. This is expensive, but it takes months to use and you can taste the high quality. If you’re used to your standard dressings, it takes some time for your taste buds to adjust. But, it’s great when they learn to love it. If you dine out start ordering their house vinaigrette.
One Last Tip: Be Aware of Restaurant or Pre-packaged Salads
They can be packed with calories. Have you ever read the nutrition facts to find your salad of choice is over 700 calories? It’s always best to make your salad at home, but if you find yourself dining out, scan the menu for calories. Does it have cheese, nuts or bacon and is it tossed in dressing? These four choices can be the highest in calories.
1.) First, ask for the dressing on the side to save on calories first. Most of the time I will skip the cheese if it has nuts because I find nuts more satisfying.
2.) Dried fruit can also add up in calories. Sometimes I will ask for those on the side to manage calories or I’ll keep the dried fruit & skip the second serving of fat (usually the cheese for me)
Like any food, if you stick to the same ingredients every week, you’ll get bored. Continue to find new ingredients to keep yourself engaged in eating a salad consistently!