I’ve been on a salad kick lately. Check out my Instagram post a few weeks back to see how to make my absolute weekly favorite: Fajita Salad. When people think salad, they think boring, but they don’t have to be. I’m always trying to be creative with food and use ordinary ingredients in different ways. Yes, your basic salad can get old real quick, but when you find that perfect flavor combination, it can be so satisfying. That is kind of where I’m at right now. Loving the warm weather and loving the salads that go with it. When eating out, people often peruse the salad section of a restaurant menu because they believe it’s the “healthiest” option, however, if you actually were to look at the macro count of a restaurant salad, you’d be blown away. Often times, the caloric value of a restaurant salad is far worse than other options on the menu. And, when making a “healthy” salad at home, where most people take a wrong turn is the dressing. What easily can turn a healthy salad into an unhealthy one is both the type of dressing being chosen and the amount of dressing being used. For the most part, dressings are so loaded with fat and sugar that someone who is trying to keep their nutrition in check will blow a massive chunk of their daily calories on two tablespoons of subpar dressing. The bottom line is I’m a volume eater. I want to eat all of the food. I say this ALL THE TIME. Therefore, I prefer to load my salad up with tons of goodies rather than worry about what to dress it with. Additionally, salads that are comprised of cleaner options such as bacon, avocado and nuts, while still are great foods individually, the portion control can easily be lacking. What in theory is a clean-eating meal, has now become a fat bomb of a salad when tossed in the same bowl. Healthy fats are great, but moderation is key. Mix and match your salad ingredients and keep them balanced. If you want multiple high fat ingredients, monitor the amount being added.
When it comes to the world of salads, I’m going to give you a few tips that work for me. You would think some of these would be no brainers, but you’d also be shocked at what people don’t think about.
When Eating Restaurant Salads:
- Ask for you dressing on the side – this way you can SEE how much dressing is being used.
- Additionally, ask for any fat-heavy ingredients on the side (i.e. bacon, nuts, cheese, avocado) – now you can control how much of each you want in your salad.
- Add protein – Although salads can be a high volume meal, they are almost strictly carbs. Adding chicken, steak, fish, etc. creates a more satiating meal, especially for a dinner salad. Skimping on protein will trigger hunger cravings later on. Guaranteed.
When Making Homemade Salads:
- Make your own dressing – Check out dressing recipes that do not contain oils or added sugars if you’re trying to save a little fat or carbs.
- Opt for yogurt based dressings – Bolthouse Farms makes great macro-friendly dressings that use yogurt instead of creams, mayonnaise, etc.
- Measure out a serving – if you’re curious about what an actual “2 TBSP” portion of dressing looks like, measure it out by weight, not volume.
- Dress your lettuce only – Sometimes all you need is a little bit of dressing to coat those greens. All your other salad ingredients should be super tasty and flavorful, so who needs the extra dressing? A little goes a long way.
- Grill your veggies – Adding grilled veggies, cauliflower rice, etc. to your salad creates a heartiness to your salad without a lot of extra calories.
- Add that protein – Load up that salad with some grilled chicken, fish or steak. Chop up some leftover meat from last night’s dinner and add it to your salad. Even cut up some deli meat you might have on hand. Remember, undereating on protein throughout the day leads to late night binging. And it’s not on egg whites, that’s for sure!
Below are three of my favorite salad combos. I consider most of these dinner salads and portion out the ingredients appropriately for a full meal, especially the protein. Ingredients can be modified or swapped based on your likes and dislikes!
BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad
Chopped Romaine or Mixed Green Lettuce
Grilled Chicken (seasoned with dry rub of kosher salt, black pepper, onion & garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, chili powder)
Chopped Red Onion
Chopped Yellow or Orange Bell Pepper
Raw or Sautéed Crimini Mushrooms
Bolthouse Classic Ranch Dressing for Greens only
Light drizzle of a low sugar BBQ Sauce over the top (G. Hughes Smokehouse Hickory has great flavor)
Optional Added Ingredients: Avocado, yellow corn, plantain chips, red pepper flakes
Asian Grilled Steak Salad
Grilled Steak (Flank steak for leanest cut, but any steak works – coat with a light layer of soy sauce or coconut aminos, and season with kosher salt, black pepper, onion & garlic powder, ginger powder , red pepper flakes)
Thinly sliced Fuji Apple
Goat Cheese Crumbles
Chopped Green Onions
Toasted Sesame Seeds to garnish
Bolthouse Carmelized Sweet Onion Dressing or Trader Joe’s Sesame Soy Ginger Vinaigrette
Optional Added Ingredients: Avocado, Sesame sticks
Classic Mixed Green Salad
Grilled Protein of Choice (Steak, Chicken, Shrimp)
Mixed Green or Baby Romaine Lettuce
Thinly sliced Red Onion
Heirloom Tomato Slices
Blue, Goat or Feta Cheese
Bolthouse Creamy Roasted Garlic Dressing or a homemade Balsamic-Dijon Vinaigrette
Optional Added Ingredients: Chopped Walnuts or Spicy Pecans (TJ’s are my fave),