Toss a healthy spring salad

I recently heard that May is National Salad Month, which got me to thinking about how people perceive salads.

Some people translate the word salad to mean iceberg lettuce, tomato wedges, croutons, shredded cheese and ranch dressing, which is why they are bored and therefore avoiding salads. Some people pride themselves on always choosing a salad off the restaurant menu, not knowing the calorie content can easily top 1,000 calories.

My goal is to change the way you perceive salads. I hope to inspire you to get creative with your salad bowl by including new, healthy toppings while controlling the calorie content.

Salads can be a great way to meet the MyPlate recommendation to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies.

• Start with greens. Instead of the classic iceberg, choose romaine, spinach, green leaf or red leaf lettuce. The darker the color, the more vitamins and minerals, which is why the NuVal score jumps from 82 (iceberg) up to 100 for the darker greens. I love using the Earthbound Farms fresh herb salad mix because the herbs provide an extra burst of flavor with the greens.


• Add color.Choose colorful fruits and veggies to add eye appeal as well as nutritional value.

• Consider texture.Add jicama, radish, carrots or celery for crunch. Try dried fruit for chewiness. Avocado will add creaminess.

• Don’t forget protein.Protein is one nutrient that will help you feel full longer, well after the salad bowl is empty. Some ideas include leftover grilled meat, rotisserie chicken, hard-boiled egg, nuts, beans, tuna or edamame.

• Dress it up.Be careful with dressings because that’s where most of the calories come from. Choose light or fat-free dressings to save fat and calories. But watch out for sodium, too. Sometimes companies use extra salt in the lighter dressings to improve flavor without adding calories. A simple solution is to mix your own dressing at home with vinegar, oil and herbs.

• Keep it exciting.Step outside the box and try new flavor combinations. Make it Greek with feta cheese, olives and a light vinaigrette. Try a taco salad with leftover taco meat over romaine lettuce topped with diced tomatoes, cilantro, black beans and fresh avocado. Serve a summery salad filled with strawberries, blueberries and almonds in a poppy seed dressing. Inspire Asian flavors with mandarin oranges, peanuts, green onion and a light sesame vinaigrette.

I recently attended a conference where they served a ribbon salad, made by shaving the zucchini and summer squash into thin ribbons with a vegetable peeler or mandolin. I was so impressed because I had never had anything like it.

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