We’ve all been there. You’re trying to eat more greens but you just can’t face another lunchtime salad. Maybe it’s because of the prep involved, maybe it’s because it feels like the North Pole outside, or maybe it’s because you’re just sick and tired of chomping your way through a big bowl of raw veggies. So you either reach for something a little (or a lot) less nutritious or you use all your willpower to just force down that salad. If you’re lucky, you discover mid-salad that “Hey, I kinda like this salad.” If you’re not lucky, you wind up feeling either guilty for choosing something less nutritious or resentful for having had a less than thrilling lunch. So what to do? I have a few tips to make salad-eating easier and more enjoyable, plus a vegan ranch dressing that you can personalize to your taste buds’ content.
But first, a check-in for those of you following my KISSS healthy eating plan. As you know, a little over a week ago I made a commitment to eat simple meals of soup and salad while cutting out the sugar and flour. I’m happy to report that though there have been moments of temptation, I’ve completely resisted sugar and, for the most part, flour. I stuck to my resolution to have salads every day last week and managed to enjoy soups 4 out of 7 nights, opting for a huge veggie-tofu stir-”fry” over shirataki noodles (flourless noodles) one night, bean burritos made with 60-calorie multi-grain tortillas another, and oven-fries and a hummus wrap another. So though I didn’t stay away from flour completely, I used the lightest tortillas I could find (many of the white flour ones contain over 200 calories each) and filled them with lots of veggies and beans. I find that these tortillas don’t set off my flour cravings like bread does, a huge plus in my opinion.
Those of you who have been eating this way for a while will not be surprised to hear that I felt much more focused and had more energy, even though I was recovering from a cold during the first half of the week. By the end of the week, I had started a new workout routine (and have the sore glutes to prove it). And though, as I said before, my primary goal is health, I did lose a little over 4 pounds. Best of all, I did it without feeling deprived or hungry. Whenever I wanted to eat, I ate. If I was still hungry after one bowl of soup, I had another. I snacked on fruit (mostly oranges), no-oil popcorn, and chickpeas sprinkled with Creole seasonings whenever I felt tempted to eat something off-plan. In the coming weeks, I will probably reduce the number of snacks I eat, but when you’re just getting started, I think it’s important to keep from getting so hungry that you go crazy and eat everything in sight. (Been there, ate that!)
If you’ve been following along, I’d love to hear how you’re doing, as well as any tips you have for making this plan easier. Please feel free to leave a note in the comments or on the FFV Facebook page.
Tips for Making Salad Your Meal (When You’d Really Rather Eat Pasta)
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
You’re much more likely to stick to your salad resolution if your salad isn’t a chore to make. Have your salad ingredients prepped and ready to grab and throw together. To me, the most time-consuming part of making a salad is washing, drying, and chopping the greens. For a while, I was buying packages of those prewashed salad greens, but not only are they expensive, they often go bad quickly. Now I make my own ready-to-eat lettuce packets by using a FoodSaver to seal cleaned and chopped romaine lettuce in quart jars (see this great post for details). Once a week I prep all my lettuce and then, when lunchtime rolls around, all I need to do is empty a jar into a bowl and add the rest of my salad ingredients. (You don’t need to have a FoodSaver; a few of those “green bags” or containers will work almost as well.) Other ready-to-use salad greens to have on-hand include broccoli slaw, baby spinach, and alfalfa or clover sprouts. With the greens already chopped, you can throw together a salad in just minutes.
Start thinking of your huge salad as the base for something else. Hummus I’ve already mentioned, but get even more adventurous and top that big bowl o’greens with Chickpea Salad. Or think outside the fridge and top your salad with something hot: balsamic chickpeas, chili beans, red beans, spaghetti sauce, or even your leftover bean soup. The hot topping will wilt the greens and warm up the whole salad, making it much more comforting on a cold day.
If giving up bread has left you craving sandwiches, let your salad be your bun! Try your favorite burger crumbled over your salad. Some of my favorites are Curried Eggplant-Lentil-Quinoa Burgers, Roasted Beet Burgers, Sweet Potato Falafel, and Red Bean-Chipotle Burgers.
Spice It Up
Don’t count on your salad dressing to deliver all the flavor to your salad. Add spicy, sweet, or tangy ingredients that make every bite sparkle with flavor. If you’re a fire lover, sliced or chopped jalapenos add an interesting heat, but if you’re looking for a tamer flavor, toss on a little salsa. Throw on some diced apples or pears or a few raisins or dried cranberries for a hint of sweetness. You may not think you like fruit in your salad, but give it a try. (My favorite combo is balsamic vinaigrette or ranch dressing, chickpeas, diced apples, raisins, and walnuts.)
Just Do It
A few times this week I was not in the mood for a salad…until I started eating it. Sometimes you just have to push past your aversion and make that salad. You may be pleasantly surprised at how satisfying it is.
Your turn: Leave me your best advice for making salads a part of your daily life.
A good salad dressing can make even a plain Jane salad interesting. Here’s the basic template I use to make a creamy salad dressing that my daughter loves. It’s highly adaptable, and though it uses cashews for creaminess, it still contains less than 30 calories per 2-tablespoon serving.
Hidden Cashew Ranch Dressing
This recipe is meant as a rough guideline for making your own personal ranch dressing. I rarely measure and just add seasonings to taste. Start with the amounts listed and add more as needed. You can give it your own flair by adding other seasonings, such as dill weed, celery seed, or red pepper. Just start small because once you add it, you can’t take it out!
- 1/4 cup raw cashews (see note about soaking)
- 1 1/4 cup plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used Westsoy)
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 1 – 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (more if using Meyer lemons)
- 1 clove garlic (or 1/4 tsp. garlic powder)
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional or to taste)
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
- 2 teaspoons chives, raw or freeze-dried, snipped
- Place all ingredients except parsley and chives into blender and process on high until smooth. Add parsley and chives and blend on low briefly to incorporate them. Check seasonings and add more as needed, but remember that the flavor will get stronger over time. Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow flavors to blend. Stir or shake before serving.
If you are using a regular blender, rather than a high-speed blender like a Vita-Mix, soak the cashews first to soften them before blending. Cover them with water and allow them to stand for at least 4 hours. Pour off the water before proceeding with the recipe. You may need to reduce the amount of non-dairy milk by a couple of tablespoons to prevent the dressing from being too thin.
Preparation time: 5 minutes | Refrigeration time: 60 minutes
Number of servings (yield): 12 2-tablespoon servings
Nutrition (per 2 tablespoons): 27calories, 14 calories from fat, 1.7g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 52.3mg sodium, 54.3mg potassium, 1.8g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, <1g sugar, 1.5g protein, 0.8 points.