By Jude Buglewicz
Summer means sun, sand, and . . . salads. Besides being great for your figure, eating lots of nutrient-rich vegetables is an excellent way to maintain your health. To keep you filling up the big bowls all season long, we've provided lists of delicious ingredients for you to choose from to add flavor, variety, and a heap of health benefits. So eat up and enjoy!
Remember, dark green, leafy lettuces and red and orange fruits and vegetables provide key nutrients and more disease-fighting antioxidants than paler varieties. Lower-fat cheeses and yogurt provide protein and calcium without the fat. And fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and herring, as well as flaxseeds, walnuts, soybeans, and tofu are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation, regulate metabolism and blood sugar, and keep your arteries clear. Finally, fruits, veggies, and legumes are excellent sources of dietary fiber, which is beneficial for maintaining normal blood sugar and cholesterol levels, promoting a feeling of fullness after eating, and keeping you regular!
1. Greens. Arugula, Boston and Bibb lettuce, endive, mustard greens, radicchio, romaine, spinach, watercressUnfortunately, most Americans choose iceberg lettuce, the least nutritious of the green leafy veggies. Romaine and watercress, though, have almost eight times more beta-carotene and twice the potassium. Mesclun is also a good salad choice. It's a mixture of baby greens such as baby spinach, radicchio, arugula, and mache. If you opt for the convenient prepackaged bags of salad greens, it's a good idea to rinse the leaves before eating, as even some "thrice-washed" varieties have been known to harbor harmful bacteria.
2. Herbs (fresh). Basil, chervil, chives, cilantro, dill, marjoram, mint, parsley, oregano, rosemary, thymePrepare fresh herbs for eating by thoroughly rinsing off dirt and grit under running water, then pat dry with paper towels. Chop herbs coarsely, removing any hard stems. Remember to buy fresh herbs in small quantities and refrigerate or freeze any leftovers in plastic bags or airtight containers.
3. Fruits. Apples, currants, dried cranberries, grapefruit, kiwis, mandarin oranges, mango, papaya, peaches, pineapple, raisins, raspberries, seedless grapes, strawberriesYou can prepare fruit salads without veggies, or add any of the fruits listed to your green salad to boost the nutrient and antioxidant levels and supply more zest and flavor.
4. Veggies. Alfalfa or bean sprouts, asparagus, avocado, beets, bell peppers (red, orange, yellow), broccoli, carrots, celery, corn, cucumbers, fennel, jalape os, jicama, peas (frozen or fresh), radishes, mushrooms, scallions, vine-ripened tomatoes, zucchiniPacking salads with fruits and veggies ensures you're on your way to getting those five recommended daily servings. Opt for mixing different colored veggies to get more phytochemical benefits.
5. Legumes. Black beans, garbanzo beans, green beans, lentils, pinto beans, snow peas, white beansTypically neglected in Western diets, legumes are popular traditional dishes in the rest of the world. They provide protein (without the saturated fat found in animal protein), and essential vitamins and minerals. Low on the glycemic index scale, they also improve blood glucose levels and give you the sensation of feeling full, so you'll eat less (and lose weight!).
6. Cheeses. Blue, cottage cheese (low-fat), feta (reduced fat), goat, parmesan, ricottaCrumble a little feta or blue cheese over your salad—or add my personal favorite, nonfat cottage cheese—to increase the calcium and protein content of your meal and help fulfill your recommended three to four daily servings of dairy products.
7. Fish. Anchovies, herring, salmon, sardines, tunaOmega-3 fatty acids! It's recommended you eat some kind of oily, cold-water fish at least twice a week, and that you include foods rich in alpha-linolenic acid as well (e.g., tofu, walnuts, and flaxseed), as they become omega-3 fatty acids in the body. Omega-3s are heart-healthy and are believed to be important for healthy brain functioning, too.
8. Other proteins. Boiled eggs, broiled tofu cubes, edamame (whole, unprocessed soybean), strips of lean ham, pork, chicken, or turkeyYou want to be sure to get enough protein when you're working out and building lean muscle, but you also want to avoid the saturated fat and cholesterol in animal proteins. So, for salads, either choose lean meats or proteins from plant sources, such as tofu or edamame. Adding a couple slices of a boiled egg is also a low-calorie, high-protein way to ramp up the vitamin and mineral content of your meal.
9. Nuts, seeds. Almonds, flaxseeds, pecans, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, soy nuts, sunflower seeds, walnutsYeah, yeah, seeds and nuts are high in fat, but it's unsaturated fat (the best kind). They're also good sources of dietary fiber and minerals. Sprinkling a few in your salad will add a nice crunchy texture—much better for you than fattening croutons!
10. Dressings. Balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, extra-virgin olive oil, hummus, lemon juice, lime juice, nonfat or low-fat yogurt, soy sauceCombine a little lemon or lime juice with herbs and extra-virgin olive oil for a healthy and zesty salad dressing, or blend a little yogurt and herbs with a tablespoon of olive oil for a creamier, more flavorful texture. Honey blended with Dijon mustard and yogurt is also delicious. Just stay away from those high-calorie, high-fat store-bought bottled dressings!