Rethink Your Salad

Don’t ever purchase iceberg lettuce again. Spinach is the leafy green you want to go with, whether it’s a salad or a sammidge (you like that, don’t you — I learned that word from a Kentucky friend; I could have the spelling wrong).

And quit thinking that a salad has to have leafy greens in it. The bowl in the picture is loaded with four simple, nutritious, inexpensive and gorgeous ingredients: red cabbage, sugar peas, green onions, and yellow bell pepper. I took the photo before I added 2 oz of grilled chicken, and drizzled it with balsamic vinegar and a really fine olive oil. I actually ate two bowls of this salad for lunch (total of 4 oz chicken).

I hear you whining about food prep time. You’re allowed to whine, but once you get the following two routines established, it’s really not difficult to maintain, and the health benefits of eating right are their own reward.

I typically grocery shop 2-3 times a week. BUT, I don’t go down every aisle; because of the kinds of foods I eat I can stay almost entirely on the perimeter of the store. The perimeter of my store means I shop primarily for veggies/fruit, meats, dairy, and a few very specific frozen items (primarily frozen fruits and meats). Fast, easy. Score one for eating well.

Cooking Once, Eating All Week
On Sundays I usually cook way more chicken or pork or (sometimes) beef than the five of us actually need so that I can take some of it and cube it up, divvy it into 4 oz portions, put it in baggies, and stick it in the freezer. If I make four or five of these, I’m set for the entire week of work lunches. I also keep staples like 3 oz cans of tuna in the pantry for protein possibilities.

Veggie Prep
You can even prep these veggies in advance, and store them in baggies or serving-sized glass bowls with plastic lids (the latter is my favorite; Pyrex makes nice ones). I wash everything, slice the cabbage, use a paring knife to snip off the tips of the sugar peas and pull the string from the flat side, then dice the pepper and onions. Raw veggies are sturdy! Raw veggies are strong like Popeye! Raw veggies will still be bright and fresh all week and they will make you feel like a Kentucky colt who just won the Triple Crown!

STOP eating that slimy garbage in the plastic Kraft bottles. Just stop. It’s frightening what’s in that crap. Learn to love the taste of veggies. Buy expensive olive oil and experiment with vinegars. Try lemon juice. Fresh garlic minced into your oil & vinegar is heavenly. Above all, don’t ever put something with high fructose corn syrup on your lovely happy vegetables. It defeats the whole point.

More Super Salad Stuff
You don’t have to be limited to what you see in my bowl today. Color is good, so pick what’s colorful. I also like broccoli, sprouts, red pears, dried cranberries, almonds, snow peas, leeks, apples, banana peppers, spinach, bok choy, avacados, tomatoes, and kale (I lightly steam the kale, then refrigerate it), just to name a few. It’s fun to shop for three or four salad ingredients every week — an adventure awaits! Just stay away from the croutons and sugar-and-fat-laden dressings. You can add gorgonzola or blue cheese crumbles, just don’t go hog wild.

Now Show Off!
My co-workers are forever amazed at how beautiful my salads are. And how huge they are (like I said, I ate TWO bowls of the salad pictured). It’s unbelievably low calorie (especially if you stop drenching it with goop). And when it’s this loaded with vitamins and balanced with protein, it’s the best possible lunch you could eat.

I don’t miss that pale yellowy iceberg stuff at all.

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6 Responses to Rethink Your Salad

  1. Alex Ford July 17, 2009 at 10:30 am #

    So is iceberg lettuce unhealthy for you?

  2. Alex Ford July 17, 2009 at 10:33 am #

    Another thing that can make your salad that much better is to buy fresh local produce. Or grow your own if you have time (who does—maybe one day when I’m a grandpa). One of the best salads I’ve ever had was with lettuce and peppers from my parent’s garden. There’s nothing better than knowing you helped grow what you’re eating.

  3. Lisa Creech Bledsoe July 17, 2009 at 10:45 am #

    Nice catch, Alex; I sure could have done a better job of explaining that part, huh? Here’s the basic percentages of the US Recommended Daily Allowance for one cup of iceberg lettuce vs one cup of spinach:

    Iceberg lettuce
    Vitamin A, 7%
    Calcium, 1%
    Vitamin C, 3%
    Iron, 2%

    Vitamin A, 56%
    Calcium, 3%
    Vitamin C, 14%
    Iron, 5%

    And I totally agree on the “grow your own.” Or buy local. That should be its own entire post! Thanks for commenting.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe July 17, 2009 at 10:56 am #

      I should have also included the higher amounts of folate (iceberg – 5%, spinach – 15%), vitamin K (iceberg – 22%, spinach – 181%), manganese (iceberg – 4%, spinach – 13%), etc. is just one of the sources for information like this online, if you are interested in checking out this sort of information on the foods you eat.

  4. Adele July 17, 2009 at 12:14 pm #

    Score one for eating REAL food! We have been getting the majority of our produce at the farmer’s markets- and shopping at Earth Fare in North Raleigh- they as a rule don’t sell most of the stuff we avoid, including NOTHING with HFCS in it! And their prices are cheaper than Whole Foods, more on par with Harris Teeter (plus they give a 5% student discount- YES!) I hate iceberg- always have- like salad way better now that I’ve learned that it’s not a requirement! 🙂

  5. Sine Botchen July 17, 2009 at 2:21 pm #

    Ditto for cooking once a week (for me it usually last 2 weeks). I grill an assortment of lean pork, beef, chicken breasts, turkey and lamb all at once and then put them into individual bowls along with a handful of already frozen veggies and shove everything in the freezer. Mostly for me this elminates the old excuse of “It’s late, I don’t have time to cook and there’s nothing to eat so I’ll swing by the burger place drive thru.” Five minutes in the microwave and I have a healthy portioned dinner (without all the processed stuff they stick in TV dinners).

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