Weird title, you might be thinking. How are art and salads related? Is that yet another new-agey movement I haven’t yet heard about? Why would I want a bad salad? And why would making a bad salad even be considered an art? Are you OK, writer? I am. Bear with me, I’m getting somewhere. (I think)
We. Hate. Salads.
Most people do, anyway. It’s in part due to the crazy dieting culture the media has slowly, subliminally pushed through the years: You’re never skinny enough, so you have to diet (permanently). Dieting for most equals eating salad. And when you approach food like that – the “lettuce with lemon juice 6/7 days of the week and then maybe a nice restaurant-level salad when I go out during the weekend” approach – it’s really no wonder people hate them.
So I am here to tell you, if you don’t love (or at least enjoy) salads, you are doing something wrong. Why? Because you can make a salad out of everything. Salads can be cold, warm, big, small, vegetarian, healthy, super unhealthy… Salads, are really only a bunch of ingredients put together in a plate, you don’t even have to know how to cook.
“Okay, writer,” you might be thinking. “I’ll give this salad thing a chance. Where do I start?” Well, as I said before it’s pretty simple, but here go some basic salad do’s and dont’s:
A lot. You are never going to know what you enjoy if you don’t start trying things out. Start simple: Use a base (your favorite greens) + something crunchy ( like nuts or croutons) + protein (chicken, cheese, tofu) + dressing (actual dressing, lemon juice).
Then you can start going crazy: Combine different flavors, add two different proteins, skip the dressing, skip the greens and use half an avocado as the base for your salad. Use ingredients you like in combinations that you like and you will inevitably love what you’re eating.
- Be mindful of sneaky calories.
The truth is we do eat salads when we’re trying to lose weight, why wouldn’t we? They are filling, delicious and make everyone smile. BUT! If you are watching your weight, watch what you add to your salad.
Nuts, carbs, and dressings can sneak in a ton of calories in small amounts. 12 almonds have about 78 calories, 1/2 an avocado has about 160 calories, 2 tbsps of dressing can have anywhere from 110 to 200 calories. This is not bad in itself, calories are good, they keep you moving and working, and especially this type of calories can nourish your body wonderfully. But if you don’t watch this, you can end up eating over 1000 calories in one sitting just by adding too many cashews and dressing to your salads.
- Play with color and flavor .
Pretty food tastes better. No, honestly, it’s not just me saying that, scientists did. But still, use some fruit for added sweetness; cheese as your protein works great mixed with apples and cranberries. A salad made up of orange, cranberries, and lettuce with blue cheese dressing is one of the greatest things you will ever taste.
- Get stuck in a lettuce-rut.
It is true, most of your salads will have lettuce. In fact, most people swear by a 2:1 ratio in your salad (AKA 2/3 of your salad should be healthy, leafy greens and the remaining third should be your fun ingredients). This is all true, leafy greens have very few calories, lots of fiber and great nutrients (except iceberg lettuce, that’s 90% water and pretty.) But “leafy and green” doesn’t mean use butter lettuce all the time. It doesn’t even mean “use lettuce all the time.”
Variety is great, use avocado as your base every once in a while, make a brocolli salad, use only two ingredients and make neither of them green. It. Is. Okay.
- Drown in dressing.
As I already said dressing can have a ton of really sneaky calories, most of which are fat; store bought dressings provide you with little else but flavor, olive oil can be great, and healthy, but anything in excess is not good. A good option to go for is balsamic vinegar and olive oil, or lemon juice, if you’re trying to lose weight. Or go for the creamy dressing, just be mindful of the amount you’re actually adding to your salad – a little can go a long way. And less dressing means you will enjoy the actual flavor of the ingredients in your salad all the more.
Now that you’ve learned that salads can sometimes be art, go forth and experiment!
Share your favorite salad combinations with me in the comments.