Make Your Next Meal Healthier
How Healthy Is Your Salad?
Salad with spinach, a few mushrooms, and onions seems like the perfect low-cal meal, but certain omissions are keeping this version from providing the biggest nutritional bang. In fact, the salad bar is one of your best opportunities for maximizing your nutrient intake, and it's no place to be stingy with ingredients.What to Look For
- A variety of greens. Don't just settle for one type of lettuce, even if it is as vitamin-packed as spinach. Throw in a little radicchio, a couple of tongfuls of iceberg, a few sprigs of frisee. Different lettuces not only provide varying levels of nutrients, but they also make your salad more appealing visually and in terms of taste. (That's why fancy restaurants usually serve a mix of greens rather than a single type of leaf.)
- Colorful vegetables. Raising the bar on your veggie add-ins will ensure that you pack as many disease-fighting antioxidants into your salad bowl as possible. Antioxidants may work better in the presence of other antioxidants, according to research. And don't just stick with green vegetables. Choose red tomatoes, yellow peppers, orange carrots, reddish-purple cabbage. The more color, the more plentiful the antioxidants.
- Low-fat, not fat-free, dressings. You'll absorb more carotenoids from a salad if you choose a vinaigrette that contains a little healthy fat (like olive or canola oil), according to research from Iowa State University. If you really like the fat-free raspberry stuff, toss in a few cubes of avocado or a spoonful of nuts.
- A microwave to heat the dressing. Some foods, like carrots and tomatoes, release more of their carotenoid compounds when they're cooked slightly. Pour on the heated dressing and toss gently. It will wilt the greens and soften some of the other vegetables slightly.
- Protein, protein, protein! It's a must-have at every meal. Toss in a spoonful of beans, tuna, or grilled chicken to keep the nutrition up and your hunger down later in the day.
Originally published in Fitness magazine, January 2006.
What do you think of this story? Leave a Comment.