As I was on the phone with one of my girls, she put me on hold because she needed to “find her container for her lunch salad.”
“Oooooh, what are you putting on yours?”
“Oh, it’s just the purple stuff, carrots and lettuce in the bag I buy with some dressing.”
“Oh, um… what kind of dressing?”
“Ranch, girl! Duh! Do you even eat salads, or you just eating carrots over there?”
Aside from the stank face I was wearing.. I kind of pitied her little lunch salad container… because it clearly wasn’t about to be holding any food.
About a week later, I met up with one of my girls during her lunch break so that we could catch up. Out comes her lunch container with her salad inside. What, prey tell, do you think was in this container?
Lettuce. Cheese. Bacon. Onions. Tomatoes. Fried onions. (Yes, regular onions and fried onions.) Croutons. Looooots of croutons. Boiled egg. Chow mein noodles… and a third of a cup’s worth of blue cheese dressing. (No, I didn’t measure it, but I’m a cook – I know what a third of a cup of a creamy substance looks like.)
What is going on, here? Not that I’m judging, but I’m judging – if we’re going to use a salad as a meal replacement, shouldn’t it address the same issues as a meal? Or is that the issue? We’re trying to cut out meal-sized calories by eating a few lettuce leaves and a creamy dressing?
That ain’t gon’ cut it. No wonder The Facebook Crew (I love y’all, I do) swore up and down a salad couldn’t be worth more than $18. I may not be able to make it all the way to $36, but I can get you awfully close.
First of all, a meal is supposed to stave off hunger as well as nourish you and keep you lively throughout your day (at least until your next meal.) They’re supposed to be larger than a snack, but not be so large that you leave your table feeling like you just went up a pants size. While my friend with the purple stuff (which was red lettuce), carrots and iceberg lettuce was trying to make a snack turn into a meal… my other friend with the confusion salad was trying to do everything she could to avoid being hungry because she “just ate leaves” for lunch.
I’m not going to lie… I am an epic salad maker. EPIC. My salads are beautiful, flavorful, enjoyable, and leave me happy.. not hungry. My salads have just the right amount of sweet and saltiness… without either sugar OR salt. Some days I get creative, and some days I just make use of my typical staple ingredients. Either way… I’m full and fulfilled for under 400 calories, and I’m happy about it.
So… how do I do it?
It’s easier than you think. I’m not a fan of thinking in terms of nutrition, because it is my personal belief that if one is truly eating clean – no processed foods, all from the Earth – then they will undoubtedly get the nutrition they need. It’s as simple as that. However… if you’re going to build a salad meant to replace a meal, you want it to have the same components as a good meal, right? So let’s talk about that.
A “good meal” is going to provide you with veggies, carbs and protein. And yes, let’s squash this myth right now: meat is not your only source for protein. It is one of many, but since there’s an industry with an image to protect… you might be led to believe that. Don’t, though.
Let’s take a look at some of my salads (that I actually bothered to remember to photograph) to help identify the three components of a good salad:
What’s in there? Mushrooms, cucumbers, poppy seeds, spinach leaves, lentils, raspberries, a couple of slices of a baguette, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar as dressing. The oil serves as the fat, the vinegar gives me my saltiness, my raspberries give me sweet, bread for carbs and lentils for protein? Win.
In there, you’ll find red russian kale (thank you, farmer’s market), tomatoes, cucumbers, lentils, sunflower seeds, dried onion, and olive oil for dressing. Sunflower seeds and lentils for protein (and fiber), olive oil for fat, tomatoes (lots of tomatoes in there) for carbs, and all those other veggies in there? Again, win.
Pepper lettuce (some awesome hybrid a farmer came up with, perhaps? I don’t know, but it’s dope.), tomatoes, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, paprika sprinkled over the top and toasted slices of a whole wheat tortilla over the top. Got a little apple cider vinegar and sunflower oil blended together as a dressing, and pow – got a good salad.
Red fire lettuce, oven-roasted tomatoes (give me a sec, I’ll post the recipe), lentils, sunflower seeds, bread crumbs, and basil and olive oil as a dressing? Stay winning.
Here, we have spinach leaves, strawberries, sesame seeds, turkey bacon (gasp!), bread crumbs, oregano and tarragon, and olive oil for dressing. Yum.
Last but not least, the beauty I just ate last night:
“What the hell is that?” you ask? That’s my taco salad, complete with a homemade tortilla baked into the shape of a salad bowl. My first time baking a tortilla, and though it looks like something out of a horror flick… trust me when I tell you that it was delicious! Inside the tortilla shell, you’ll find iceberg lettuce, black beans, a tomato cucumber relish, and freshly shredded cheese. Black beans for protein, the tortilla shell for carbs? These are total wins, here.
If you notice, some of these things I only use occasionally (pumpkin seeds, raspberries, mushrooms, ) while others, I use regularly (olive oil, sunflower seeds, cucumbers, tomatoes.) It’s all about whatever’s available at that time in my house, as well as whatever’s available and cheapest at the market. If radishes are only $0.75 a bushel, please believe there will be plenty radishes had during meal time… salads or not. If black beans are on sale for $1 a pound, I’ll be “making it do what it do.” It’s that simple. The more pricey ingredients – balsamic vinegar, for example – I use sparingly. No, really- I’ve had the same bottle for approximately 7 months sitting in my fridge.
Build an arsenal of staple ingredients that you can use in any salad, that way you can throw together something yummy if you’re in a hurry. Branch out if you’ve got time. But don’t limit yourself to the crap in the bag… and don’t throw the whole kitchen sink in your bowl just to stave off hunger. If anything, use your ten minutes to build a better lunch salad… and I promise you’ll appreciate it!
Mmmmmmmmm. I love a good salad. We have a salad bar at my job and I usually have some mix of the following: mixed baby greens, spinach, fruit salad (seasonal berries, melon, and pineapple), grilled chicken, asparagus, black rice, boiled potatoes, sunflower seeds, and cheese. A little goes a long way! I’ll get a small to-go container and it definitely fills me up. I have to but better ingredients for the salads I make at home. Usually it is some combination of: mixed baby greens, boiled egg, grilled chicken, avocado, cheese, and frozen vegetables (mexican blend with corn, black beans, and peppers. I’ll uses some balsamic dressing or just a drizzle of a fruity olive oil.
awesome! and so creative.
These salads look awesome. I’ve been experimenting with different salads too. We found some jamaican sorrel at the farmer’s market this past weekend and it is delicious; gives the salad that lil sweet and tangy flavor it’d been missing.
Got my stomach over her growling at this salad.
Sounds good. I like to add chick peas and other beans. I also substitute a little salsa (watch the sodium!) for dressing.
You must share: What’s the recipe for the homemade tortillas?
LMAO! Once I can get ’em to look less like alien spacecraft, I’ll post the recipe complete with pictures. I promise. 🙂
These are some beautiful salads. some of my favorite sweet fixins include craisins, strawberries, mandarin oranges, and apple slices. I’m definitely going to use some of your ideas and play around with more. Raspberries first up! I LOVE poppy seed dressing and sunflower seeds on my salads too. I don’t like pecans alone but they are good in a salad also. great post.
The salad I make the most at home is a variation of one of Ruth Chris’s 9 dollar salads: The Harvest Salad.
Dark leafy greens (arugula and spinach)
Goat cheese (crumbled)
Dried cranberries or cherries
Sweet corn (if you have it)
And I have two low-cal vinaigrettes (one pear/gorgonzola and the other a balsamic maple) which I put on the side for dipping. (Dipping salad dressing instead drizzling means you eat less, generally speaking.)
Are your lentils cooked or raw on our salad? I know that sounds like a stupid question but they looked raw and I was just wondering?
They’re cooked, though not fresh – I prepare a big pot of lentils, and keep them in a jar in the fridge. Makes life easy. 🙂
(I do think the camera is making them look awfully dry, though. LOLOL)
This post is making me hungry. My favorite salad is romaine, tomato, cukes, grated carrots, grated cheddar, apple slices, sunflower seeds, chick peas, avocado, dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. Even if you don’t have all those ingredients and leave a few out, it’s delicious.
Commmmmme to the dark side, bebe. *mwah*
I like mixed greens, cukes, celery, mushrooms, chicken, walnuts, a few Craisins, strawberries, a little bacon, and balsamic vinaigrette.
LOL That salad was from approx 8mos ago. As of current, I am still #teamANTIbacon. 😛
I Love Salads…My new found love is my greek salad with tomatoes, feta cheese, cucumbers, romaine lettuce and a little olive Oil and vinegar…DELISH!
Oh, yum… these salads got me loving olives again! Yes!
Oh those salads look delicious!
Remember what I said a while back- people think just because it’s a salad*, it’s healthy for them and they can get away with anything since it’s healthier.*
*Sure, until they pile on the ingredients like fried chicken or steak and other deliciously evil ingredients that push the calorie count into the high hundreds. And the packaged 200-calorie-a-serving dressings, LOL!
Yesssss… it’s hard to get people to realize that just because you’ve got it on top of lettuce leaves, that this doesn’t give you a free pass to do what you wanna do on top of ’em! You have to be a little more disciplined than that.
And good grief… don’t get me started on that salad dressing. Ugh… I’m getting nauseous just thinking about it! LOL
Also! Best salad evar…
Chopped romaine lettuce, lime-marinated grilled chicken breast, julienne carrots, diced apples, tomatoes, avocado, roasted corn, turkey bacon if you wish & a dash of crumbled blue cheese (or goat cheese, YUM!)
Heavily whisk lime juice while slowly adding olive oil until it thickens, add freshly-ground black pepper (or peppercorn medly) to taste… only need a few tablespoons!
Wow. So you don’t approve comments that provoke a discussion or disagree with you even if they are well thought out and kindly worded from a regular reader?
Editor’s note: Actually, that’s incorrect – your comment wasn’t approved because it broke rules for commenting on this site. Period. As evidenced by your original comment as well as THIS assertion that I don’t like disagreement, you CLEARLY haven’t been around long enough to tell me what I do and do not do. Chill out.
And really, let’s be real, here – your comment was anecdotal at best, irrelevent and self-refuting at its most “kindly worded,” and unnecessarily argumentative at its worst. Refuting things I did not say on this post (and have THOROUGHLY debunked on this site) adds unnecessary confusion and, quite frankly, I like order.
Now, if you want to talk details with me? You are more than welcome to e-mail me. But since THIS comment broke another rule on my site, the only reason THIS MUCH of this comment is being approved is because you wanted my attention. Congratulations, you’ve got it. Enjoy your day. 🙂
Luv the salads. When I have a taste for creamy dressing, I mix avocado and plain yogurt.
Those look so good. I’m encouraged to not let the pretty containers of mixed greens in my fridge become green mushy messes when I can’t figure out what to do. I also want to see the tortilla recipe one day. I have a comfort salad that I had to make better since it had little nutritional value, lots of fat, and caused me to crave baked mac and cheese – the classic Wedge (1/4 head iceberg, lots of good blue cheese dressing, a chopped tomato, and bacon…lots of bacon). So my new wedge uses green cabbage (more fiber and taste), blue cheese (not the dressing), more tomato, less bacon (center cut so more lean but its still bacon), and a small amount of homeade yogurt dressing. The old wedge was (per Sparkpeople) 295 cal, 26 gm. fat, 9 protein, and 2 gm fiber. The new wedge – 212, 12, 13, and 5. Still not stellar but for comfort food…
Could u post the recipe 4 ur taco salad??? Mostly how u made the bowl!!!
Could u post the recipe 4 ur taco salad??? Mostly how u made the bowl!!! Thanks!!!
Hi. Right now I’m bingeing on caprese salad: sliced heirloom tomatoes from my garden, basil from my garden, fresh mozzarella (farmer’s market), sea salt/fresh ground pepper, extra virgin olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Sometimes I add sliced cucumbers or lettuce, but why try to improve on perfection?
In between home grown tomato seasons I make chopped salads of romaine with iceberg (for crunch!)then add 4+: some mixed greens, cucumbers, black olives, pecans/almonds/sunflower seeds, sprouts, a sprinking of store bought grape tomatoes, shredded carrots, colored bell pepper slices, a sliced boiled egg, muenster/mozzerella/or feta cheese shreds , vinagrette dressing and whole multi grain bread slices on the side. I tell my friends to bring over their own ranch/creamy dressing if they’re coming over for dinner!
I usually get my salad bowl and add stuff until it fills up. If I’m really hungry, I’ll add a flesh protein and cooked vegetable, but I eat the salad first. Afterall, live food is much better than dead/cooked food!
This was right on time. My salad creativity gets 0 pts out of 100 and I recently accepted that learning to cook and prepare GOOD meals is something I’m going to have to do to get healthier. I want to focus on fish and salads first. Thanks for the well-timed advice! I promise to try one of your recipes TODAY!
Well, I am looking forward to this new lifestyle. I will try a salad tomorrow. Wish me luck. My salads generally are not as appetizing as the ones mentioned above.
Some of my favorite Salads (Base is Salad Greens or Spinach and Tomatoes) with…
1. Mexican – Black Beans, Cheddar Cheese, Cilantro, Green Onion Salsa Cumin/Cilantro/Taco seasoned chicken breast or lean beef.
2. Italian Chicken – Grilled Chicken, Chopped Turkey Pepperoni, Banana Peppers with homemade Creamy Italian
3. Fajita Salad – Slicked skirt steak, Green Peppers, Onions with Dressing – Vinegar, Olive Oil, Herbs, Garlic
4. Greek (Salad, Tomatoes, Olives, Feta Cheese, Chicken or Lamb Meat with olive oil and vinegar dressing)
5. Spring Mix – Pecans, Cranberries, Blue Cheese with a balsamic vinaigrette
6. Black and Blue – Beef and Blue Cheese with a balsamic viniagrette.
7. All American – Cheddar, Cherry tomatoes, Chicken breast, Egg, thinly sliced crispy onions (coat ’em with panko and egg white and bake in the oven) with a BBQ Ranch dressing. (Dressings are all natural and homemade)
8. Chef – Shrimp, Snow Peas, Turkey, Avocado,Green Onion
9. Caesar – Shrimp or Chicken Caesar
I like spinach, mandarin oranges and/or sliced strawberries, red onion slices, and turkey bacon with a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
I don’t really do salads anymore. I just can’t because they bore me to death. Seriously they do and I know how to cook so its not about that. They just bore me to death. So basically I’ve been going crazy trying to figure out what to do to get my greens in. I remembered I saved a recipe for a smoothie from the Tastespotting blog and decided to do some research. I found green smoothies and let me tell you I am in love. Best thing I have down for myself health wise besides eating steel cut oats. It is a smoothie but with salad. I usually do a couple handfuls of spinach, half an avocado, a banana, virgin coconut oil, frozen mango cubes, flax seeds and maybe some hemp seed oil. I change it up but so far this is my favorite. Yea its green but it taste like banana and coconut. Also my cravings for sweets and salty foods have gone down and now I crave greens more but not salads. IMO its better than a salad because there are no fatty dressings or toppings like cheese and you can easily get a lot of greens in this way.
I am not a huge fan of salads either. I eat them every now and then but also find them boring. What has me most intrigued about your post is the steel cut oats. Please tell me how you prepare yours. I have tried a few times and they are just gross. In fact, gross is an understatement. What is the trick? Do i need to cook them longer, cook them in milk? HELP!!!!
If you have a Trader Joe’s in your area, they have “quick” steel cut oats. It cooks in 8 minutes on the stove and about 4 in the microwave (use a HUGE microwave bowl or you will have a mess). What I do is cook my steel cut oats on Sunday night for the week. I do add vanilla, cinnamon and solid pack (pure, not pie filling) pumpkin (fiber, fiber everyone!). I cook four servings but the pumpkin makes it about 5 or 6 so I’m good for the week. I love it! I keep it in the fridge and heat it up in the microwave in the morning. After I have my customary 2 cups of water in the morning, I have the oatmeal, 2 boiled egg whites (I hate yolks), 2 slices of turkey bacon, and 1 c milk (either skim or a 1/2 and 1/2 mixture of almond drink and rice drink). That keeps me going in the morning until lunch because my job is so unpredictable, I have to be ready for anything.
Hi Karen G,
This is what I do and I cook my oatmeal everyday two days but you could always make it for the week if you wanted. I take 3c of water to a boil and add in a dash of fine sea salt, small piece of vanilla bean and 1/2 c of Bobs Red Mill Steel Cut oats. They are much cheaper than McCann’s. I turn the heat down to medium and let everything simmer to the texture that I like my oats. Some people like them mushy or al dente, so play around with the time and amount of water. When down take out that bean clean, dry and add to a pot of sugar for vanilla sugar.
For my pumpkin pie oats I cook the oats as directed above and add 1/4 pumpkin puree, 1 loose teaspoon on brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice to taste about 1TB. For my apple pie I add in sugar free apple sauce, 1 loose teaspoon of brown sugar and apple pie spice to taste. For my tropical flavor I medium banana mashed with cinnamon and ginger to taste, 1 loose teaspoon of brown sugar and about 1 teaspoon of virgin coconut oil. I plan on trying out apple cider in place of water and seeing how that goes.
As you can see I don’t use milk but I add flavor in after and that is the key. They are pretty nasty on their own but bland food tends to be that way. Have fun and consider them a blank canvas and have your way with them. Cooking good food is about experimenting and finding what works for you. HTH
I like your oatmeal recipes!
Well, you’ve done it again. I’m so glad to come here and get great sound advice about how easy it is to eat well. Girl, I will bang out a salad too in a hot NY minute. I love beets, mandarine oranges, left over chicken, flaked fish, avacado, corn, chopped egg whites, OJ mixed with balsamic, mustard & EVOO dressing, strawberries, apples, spinach, salsa (though not on the same salad)… I thought I was the Salad queen, but you’re in the running. Keep the great info coming.
Thank you for posting this. I will be printing and using it to make a grocery list.
Now I know I like you! I eat a salad nearly every day. In part because I love them, but also because it makes eating well easy. I stopped buying salad dressings 4 months ago. I use olive oil, but I splurge and buy a brand I like. Today’s salad has baby romaine, quinoa, dried cranberries, grae tomatoes, a little bit of corn, cucumbers, a hard boiled egg, basil infused olive oil & apple cider vinegar.
For those who miss thicker dressings, if you emulsify you oil & acid whether it be vinegar, or lemon juice you can add the egg yolk to it for a creamy dressing or my personal fav, smashed avocado for a creamy avocado dressing. FYI adding avocado to your salad boost the absorption of nutrients from the rest of the veg. (I was out of avocados)
I’m going to try that tortilla boil and make a south west salad with black beans.
I love your site. It makes clear that with a bit more effort and committment to my health and well being, I can succeed. Thank you!
Another great addition to a salad is fresh cilantro. It gives salad a very fresh and unique flavor.
Those salads look soooooo good!
My favourite addition to salad is avocado. Just a quarter, sliced thinly, and it has to be perfectly ripe and in-season. Other goodies to add are sliced strawberries and turnip greens.
I have 3 go to salads:
dinner party salad: dried cherries or cranberries, mixed lettuces, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, goat or blue cheese, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil. Looks fancy, it is really easy to throw together
fall salad: romaine, arugula or butter lettuce (or a combo), apple or pear, optional: jicama or cucumber, avocado, salt, pepper, lemon or lime juice
colorful salad: your favorite meat, any lettuces, sliced fresh oranges and/or grapefruit, fennel, olives, bell peppers, salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, reserved juices from the cut up grapefruit/orange, a squeeze of lemon juice.
So informing!! I really love salads but don’t know really where to start on how to make them healthy & still tasteful
What type of lentils do you use in your salads?
I have lost 97# so far…trying to get the last 3 off to make it an even 100#…I love, love, love salads. I am most proud of being able to go to any restaurant and “de-constructing” the unhealthy salad and making it healthy….no croutons, no cheese, no “crispy” anything..meat, noodles whatever…dressing always on the side, but half the time I don’t even use dressing. One example…I take my 92 yr old Dad out to lunch every Tuesday..we go to Coastal Flats…here is my order…shrimp cocktail with sauce on the side (the first time I ordered it, there was this sweet tomatoe based sauce that I didn’t like) no crackers…then I order a chop house salad (greens, a little tomato, corn, black bean and radishes mixed in)…no croutons, no dressing. I then dump the shrimp cocktail (which is served over chopped radishes, jicama and a few pieces of mango and avacado)…I cut up the shrimp so I have a some shrimp in each fork full…then I squeeze fresh lime wedges on top along with a few spoonfuls of the tomato pieces in the sauce…best salad ever 🙂
forgot to mention….I LOVE YOUR WEBSITE <3
I love this post! It’s so true that people don’t know how to use salads. I mean really, if there is no fat or protein will it really sustain them?
Girl, not at all!
I wish I had found this website a couple of years ago. Those salads…wow. You’ve got me all kinds of inspired and motivated to get back on the clean-eating wagon. Thank you for all the work you put into this site.
(So, like, would it be alright to make one your salad pictures my desktop background? I won’t redistribute it, I promise!) 🙂
LOL GO FOR IT!
i still can’t with sweet fruit in my salads..lol
I love this! I once ordered myself a specialty Greek salad for 10 bucks on a lunchtime deal at a food spot. In respects to the poor quality feta cheese, wilted romaine, funky old roasted peppers, mushy tomatoes and alarmingly soft cucumbers the only thing that was dealt to me was a hearty dose of disappointment. I vowed I would never buy another overpriced salad when I could make a better one at home. This blog entry raised the salad bar for me (no pun intended lol), I know what I’m having for lunch tomorrow.. Thanks!
There is one salad I really enjoy making: baby dark leaves, tomatoes, avocado, a couple of smoked salmon slices and some flax seeds… With a homemade dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil ( I use it very sparingly though)… Now my question to you is: I love smoked salmon but I also know it is processed food. How bad do you think two thin slices can be in a salad? I try my best to only eat it once a month …
“How bad do you think two thin slices can be in a salad?”
Not particularly bad at all. Smoked salmon isn’t inherently “processed,” since you can naturally (and quickly) smoke salmon at home with minimal problem.
Comments are closed.