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5 Steps For Building the Perfect Salad

When you think of a salad, what picture pops into your head? Is it a bowl of simple green lettuce, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, and possibly a few shredded carrots? Or is it a massive thing, piled high with accoutrements such as nuts, berries, fancy radishes, crumbled cheese, hard boiled egg, and maybe some sort of meat? There is no right or wrong answer to this- salads can be uncomplicated side dishes or they can serve as full-on meals. The point is, salads are a tasty and healthy way to pack in your veggies. And, if you're looking to build a nutritious and enjoyable meal around one, here are five easy steps to ensure your success every time:

Step #1: Start with greens. 

The majority of your salad is probably going to be made up of greens of some sort, so make it count. Go for the dark, leafy stuff instead of the watery Iceberg variety as it contains far more beneficial vitamins and minerals (such as folate, iron, fiber, and vitamin C). Spinach, kale, chard, mesclun, radicchio, and romaine are all great options. 

Step #2: Add some color. 

In the world of fruits and veggies, color generally indicates a concentration of good nutrients. Think lycopene (tomatoes), beta carotene (carrots), and vitamin C (yellow, orange, and red peppers). Throw any or all of these onto your salad in order to pack a nutritious punch. You could even go a little bit nuts and toss on some mushrooms, broccoli, and/or green beans. 

Step #3: Throw in some good protein. 

If you're intending for your salad to act as a meal, then it's important to include some sort of filling protein (it helps to stabilize your blood sugar levels). Aim for about four ounces of a lean protein such as tuna, turkey, chicken, or salmon, or tofu. 

Step #4: Don't forget the legumes. 

Beans are a fantastic source of filling fiber, and they will also add some more substance to your meal. There are a ton of varieties out there to choose from, but garbanzo beans, kidney beans, and lentils are especially delicious in salads. You should try to toss in about a half cup of them. 

Step #5: Be conscious of your dressing. 

While dressings can add just the punch of flavor that your salad is looking for, they oftentimes pack an unhealthy amount of fat, sugar, and sodium (kind of ruins the whole "healthy meal" thing, right?). Try to avoid creamy options such as Ranch, Thousand Island, Blue Cheese, and Ceasar, as they tend to be laden with unhealthy fats. Opt for a lighter vinaigrette, or make your own by drizzling your salad with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 

 

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