The most important part of your salad is the greens. Bypass the standby iceberg lettuce as the base of your salad and try flavorful leafy greens such as romaine, arugula, baby spinach, watercress, cabbage, Swiss chard, endive, dandelion greens, escarole, butter lettuce, or any other interesting green you see at your local market. Be sure to throw in some fresh herbs, too.
Plain greens, regardless of type, won't make a satisfying salad alone. Make your salad more satisfying by adding a healthy, hearty protein. Chicken is by far one of the most popular additions for a salad, but salty slices of prosciutto and ham, or tender chunks of turkey also work well. Grilled or broiled seafood is a healthy choice, as is canned tuna, salmon, crab, shrimp, or even anchovies, if you are short on prep time.
You can be extra creative with your salad by adding duck, pork or beef — these are especially good for entrÃ©e salads — or opt for meat-free alternatives such as baked tofu, tempeh, beans and legumes. Wedges of hard-cooked eggs are a satisfying high-protein alternative, too.
Loading your salad with vegetables is a low-calorie way to add different tastes, textures and nutrients. Try fresh or sauteed sliced mushrooms, grated carrots, jicama, cucumbers, grilled eggplant and zucchini or any of your favorite vegetables. Visit your farmer's market and take advantage of the freshly picked spring and summer bounty.
Tomatoes and avocadoes, though often thought to be veggies, are excellent fruit for salads. Dried fruit, such as raisins, prunes, craisins and dried apricots can add a nice chewy texture. Fresh fruit like grapes, berries, citrus and even banana can give your salad a deliciously refreshing quality. Spring and summer offer an abundant of fruit choices, giving you many tasty and naturally sweet options.
The many types of nuts give you the opportunity to add a crunchy array of different flavors and nutrients to your salad dish. However, don't add too many if you are counting calories because, despite being healthy, nuts are also high in fat and calories.
Whether it's grated Parmesan (on a Caesar salad), fresh mozzarella (with tomatoes and fresh basil), or creamy brie (which deliciously pairs with fruit and nuts), cheese adds a delectable richness to salads while providing a good dose of calcium and other nutrients. Just be sure to watch how much you add, because cheese is also high in calories and fat. Add just enough to enjoy the satisfying flavors different cheeses have to offer.
Skip the store-bought croutons and make your own. All you need is some day-old bread (cut into cubes), a little olive oil, and herbs of your choice. Simply toss together and bake in the oven for a few minutes until they are toasty. Let cool completely and store in an airtight container for future salads.
The final garnish on a salad is the dressing. You can opt for store-bought, which is convenient, but making your own will really make your salad super. Try a few teaspoons of good extra-virgin olive oil with a little salt and pepper and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar. You can also use recipes for classic salad dressings like Caesar, Ranch, or Thousand Island. Salsa also makes a great low-fat, low-calorie dressing.
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