Salads often get stuck in a Goldilocks scenario: Raw greens are served either as a sparse dinner sidekick or a slyly named calorie bomb full of mayo-based dressing, bacon and cheese. But salads don’t have to be too small or too big. Take advantage of fresh ingredients to craft a salad that’s just right.
Taste the Rainbow
When mixing your salad, color outside the lines and include every shade in the spectrum. Tara Gidus, a Florida-based sports dietician and author of Pregnancy Cooking & Nutrition for Dummies, explains, “A rainbow of colors typically means more fiber and a greater variety of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.” The best place to start is with dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, arugula and Swiss chard. Then seek out produce with orange, red, yellow, purple or white hues. Aim to include at least three different brightly colored vegetables or fruits.
Seek out Carbs
Carbohydrates are a major fuel source for runners’ muscles, so a main course salad needs more than just raw veggies. “Whole grains are a great source of fiber and complex carbohydrates to give you sustained energy,” notes Gidus. Quinoa, spelt, farro and wild rice are stellar additions. Gidus adds that lentils and beans, such as edamame, supply a dynamic duo of complex carbohydrates and protein. “Fresh or dried fruits add plenty of vitamins, antioxidants and a burst of sweetness to your salad,” she says.
Power With Protein
“Protein definitely makes a salad more filling and satisfying,” explains Gidus. It also provides the amino acids muscles need in order to recover from training.
She recommends including chicken breast, salmon, shrimp, canned tuna, hard-boiled eggs, tofu or low-fat dairy to make your salad a protein powerhouse. You can also blend cottage cheese or yogurt into a dressing to add a creamy flavor and a muscle-building punch.
Embrace Healthy Fat
Don’t be afraid of healthy fats! They not only make your salad tastier, but also help your body properly absorb the antioxidants found in vegetables and fruits. Beyond extra virgin olive oil, rev up your salad with avocado, nuts and seeds, which “provide crunch for textural contrast,” according to Gidus. Also try alternative oils for your dressing like walnut, avocado or hemp.
Try this spin on a classic grain-based salad. . .Edamame and quinoa pack this Asian-inspired salad with plenty of protein, minus the meat.
Quinoa Salad with Miso Dressing
1 1/2 cups quinoa
1 1/2 cups frozen edamame, shelled
2 carrots, sliced into matchsticks
1 avocado, diced
2 cups arugula
1 cup pecans, chopped
3/4 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp. white miso paste
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
1/2 tsp. red chili flakes
Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Add 2 cups quinoa, return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered until the grain has fully absorbed the water, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat, let sit covered for 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork. In a separate saucepan, prepare edamame according to package directions.
In a large bowl, toss together cooked quinoa, edamame, carrots, avocado, arugula, pecans and dried cherries.
Place orange juice, miso, rice vinegar, sesame oil, ginger and red chili flakes in a blender and mix until smooth. Drizzle dressing over salad mixture and serve.
Nutritional Info Per Serving:
427 calories, 13g protein, 20g fat (2g saturated), 51g carbohydrates, 9g fiber, 236mg sodium