Have you ever had a salad for lunch in an attempt to be healthy, only to find out that you’re starving shortly after? For a long time, salads have gotten a bad rep for being bland, boring and unsatisfying, and for many of us, salads are tied to the diet-culture mindset of limiting calories in order to shrink ourselves. Yet, when done right, a salad can be an enjoyable way to consume a nutrient-dense meal. Thus, this article introduces different components that you can add to your next salad, keeping you full and nourished.
1. Add a Source of Protein
Protein is an essential nutrient that is important for every cell in your body and helps to build and repair muscle, tissue, skin, hair and nails.
Out of the three macronutrients, protein is known to be the most satiating, helping you stay full for longer. Another important note is that unless you are a bodybuilder, athlete or have a medical condition that deems it appropriate, you do not need excessive amounts of protein.
There are many different sources of protein that you can add to your meals, whether you eat meat or not. Plant-based protein sources include: tofu, seitan, tempeh, legumes, nuts and seeds. Animal-based sources include: meat, fish, seafood, dairy, or eggs.
If it works within your eating pattern, add more plant-based proteins as they are packed with fibre and contain less saturated fats than animal based proteins. Incorporate them in dishes you are already used to having. You can start small and remember that every little bit counts!
2. Carb Up Your Salads
Many of us have fallen victim of the infamous low carb diets, but few of us know that carbohydrates, namely glucose, are our bodies’ preferred and main source of energy. Not only that, but including a source of carbohydrates into your meals can increase the satisfaction factor.
Additionally, carb sources like whole grains are packed with heart-healthy and gut-loving fibre, along with B vitamins, iron and more. Fibre is essential for maintaining regularity and, like protein, is incredibly satiating. Sources of whole grains include: rice, quinoa, bulgur, whole wheat bread and pasta. Moreover, these foods can be tossed into your salads or enjoyed on the side!
3. Don’t be Afraid of Fats
Alongside carbohydrates, fats are often feared for their caloric content, being the most calorie dense out of the three macronutrients. Yet, an eating pattern consisting of sufficient fat ensures that your body can better absorb fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamin A, D, E and K. Fat is also an important component of meals that help us with satiety, keeping our energy levels stable throughout the day. Additionally, fat makes food tastes good! It is known to carry aromatic compounds that contribute to the flavour profile of our meals, making them more enjoyable.
Notably, adding more unsaturated fats like monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocados, majority of nuts and seeds, and polyunsaturated fats like omega 3 found in fatty fish, walnuts, hemp, ground flax and chia seeds is beneficial and important for our health. Majority of these foods are significant sources of protein too!
4. Consider Different Flavours and Texture
An eating pattern is only beneficial for your health and wellbeing, if you actually like and enjoy your meals. Forcing yourself to eat something you hate will only drive you further away from eating nutrient-dense foods. When eating a meal, consider different elements you can add to enhance its satisfaction factor. These elements can contribute to different flavour profiles or create contrasting textures for a better eating experience.
When considering different flavours, you can add acid, like vinegar or lemon juice, and sweetness such as honey, fruits, or balsamic glaze. If you enjoy stronger flavours, consider adding aromatics like onions, garlic, and herbs. Moreover, using bitter greens like arugula and radicchio can add a punch of flavour to round out the meal.
As for the textural components of a salad, you can play with creamy, crunchy, and chewy elements to excite your palate. Adding croutons, nuts, seeds, or onions is a great way to introduce crunchiness, while cheese and dried fruits add a playful chewiness to your salad. As for creaminess, pick your favourite salad dressing. And remember, don’t be afraid of the fats!
Remember that plant-based proteins are not an absolute must and they don’t have to add them in if they really don’t like it, although it is beneficial for our health. Thus, it is helpful to speak in more neutral approach to the topic and meet people where they are at. If you are looking for delicious salad dressing recipes, we've got you covered. Try out these: vital vinaigrette and Greek salad dressings.