Whether hot or cold, a main entrée or side dish, salads can be a nourishing staple in your household’s meal plan.
“Salads are an easy, versatile option that allow you to use what’s on hand and in-season when creating them,” said University of Illinois Extension Educator Jessica Gadomski, a registered dietitian for SNAP-Education. “From savory to sweet, salads are a fun way to pack in your favorite fruits, vegetables, and proteins, as well as dairy and grains.”
Celebrate National Salad Month with these tips to keep your salads fresh, nutritious and festive:
- Get in those Veggies –
Consider starting your meal with a leafy salad full of vegetables from your crisper or garden. “This is not only a great way to get in your daily vegetable needs and reduce food waste, but also can help you feel satisfied sooner,” said Gadomski.
- Don’t Forget the Protein –
Whether starting with a leafy-base or a whole grain, like couscous or quinoa, the addition of a lean animal or plant-based protein can turn a side dish into an entrée. “Grilled chicken, unsalted nuts, seeds, tofu, beans or egg all make great options,” Gadomski said. “Aim to incorporate different textures in your salad like: crunchy, soft, chewy and dry for a more exciting combination.”
- Watch those Toppings –
Gadomski warns that salad dressing and add-ins can quickly transform a nutrient-dense food into one riddled in excessive calories, sodium, sugar and fat. “Remember, moderation is key,” she said. “Limit dressings to no more than two tablespoons, and choose a fresh salsa or vinaigrette over cream-based options. You can even make your own!” A basic vinaigrette is made by combining one part vinegar to three parts oil and flavoring with herbs and spices. You can even make it into a friendly family competition.
- Try Something New –
Most, if not all, cultures have a salad dish that highlights traditional flavors and fare. For instance, Tabbouleh is an Eastern Mediterranean salad featuring chopped tomatoes, parsley, mint, onion, olive oil and bulgur, a type of whole grain. “Test new recipes or create your own combinations this month, and you’ll be all set to share your favorite at a backyard gathering just in time for Mother’s Day or Memorial Day!”
- Don’t Miss Dessert –
Salads can make an excellent sweet treat as well. Consider cutting up fruits on-hand and topping with low-fat or fat-free yogurt and cinnamon for a refreshing dessert.
If you want more inspiration for your salads, check out the Illinois Nutrition Education Programs website at go.illinois.edu/eatmovesave. There, you can find recipes such as Nectarine and Peach Fruit Salad, Bean Salad with Rice and Tangy Vegetable Pasta Salad.
— Salads provide quick nutrition for snacks or meals —-