Last Updated on May 2, 2016 by Michael Brockbank
Nearly every diet out there wants you to eat more salad. That’s because salads are usually lower in calories, carbs and other bad components that can turn into fat stores. It’s also true that salads can be one of the most nutritious meals you can eat. You don’t have to sit in front of the television with a plain bowl of lettuce. There are several ways you can enhance a salad for both taste and nutritional value.
What Can You Add to Enhance a Salad to Improve Health and Taste?
Salads can be designed in a myriad of ways. It’s one of the most versatile types of food since so much can be added to it. From pastas to meats, it all depends on what you like and how healthy you want to become. Here are seven things that are usually found in my own salads.
I often mix raw spinach in with my salads. Whether it’s a bag of iceberg lettuce or a freshly chopped up head, spinach can vastly improve the nutritional value of the dish without adding a large number of calories. For example, a whole cup of spinach may only increase the calories by five. One cup may not sound like a lot until you put it in your bowl. When mixed with lettuce, it delivers a unique taste increasing the number of vitamins and minerals you consume exponentially.
Personally, I like to chop up about 1/4 cup of onion into my salad. I cut the rings in quarters so they are easier to pick up with a fork. Since I love onions in my food, this improves my salad. It also delivers a level of vitamin C, potassium and a small amount of vitamin B6. Approximately 1/4 cup of onion will increase the calorie count of a salad by 10 or so. This doesn’t say anything about the small amount of protein or the negligible amount of fats.
- Shredded Cheese
I love cheese on a wide variety of foods. I usually add an entire serving of shredded cheese on my salad – which is often 1/3 cup. This delivers protein, calcium and a small number of calories. Personally, I’d rather use the fiesta blend. However, shredded mild cheddar can also deliver a nice contrast to the onion. In either case, try to stick with 1/3 cup or less to enhance a salad.
I love white mushrooms. Although they aren’t full of vitamins and minerals, they are great for adding taste as well as being a healthy filler. You’ll get less than 10 calories in a 1/2 cup of white mushrooms when added to the salad. One thing that mushrooms have in great supply is potassium. Since less than 2% of the people in the United States actually consume the proper amount of potassium in any given day, mushrooms can help you reach that goal.
- Green Peppers
Sliced green peppers are also one of my favorite additions to the salad. The bell pepper can deliver an incredible amount of vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B6 and is low in calories. If you want to give the salad a festive appearance, you can use the various color stages of bell peppers. Personally, we use the red, yellow and orange blend in our foods a lot of the time. I usually add between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of peppers to any given salad depending on what else I put in it.
- Bean Sprouts
I only use fresh bean sprouts. Those that come in a can are just too soggy and were quite a disappointment. On a nutritional level, bean sprouts don’t really have a lot to them. Although they do have some vitamin C and potassium, you’d have to eat a cup of them to really get any benefit. I like bean sprouts for the taste, and they are a low-calorie addition to act as a filler for the stomach when you enhance a salad.
Various meats are great to enhance a salad. If we don’t have a lot of money, I’ll often shred up some lunch meat to put into the bowl. However, you can’t go wrong with grilled chicken or even chopped steak. It all depends on what you like. Only use a single serving of meat – which is roughly 3 ounces. This will give you protein as well as a wide array of vitamins and minerals depending on the type of meat you add. Three ounces is actually a fair amount once you measure it out. This is usually the most calorie rich part of the salad, so you may not want to go too hog-wild on meat if you’re looking to cut back.
Salads can be an incredibly healthy and cost-efficient way to eat throughout the day. If you monitor the portion sizes of the lettuce, you might be surprised by just how much you can eat without increasing your calorie count. One and a half cups of lettuce with one cup of spinach can easily cover a plate or fill a bowl. Just make sure you add components that can contribute to health as well as taste.