When I was first diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I felt like the only thing I could eat was a salad. I ate salad for lunch, salad at a restaurant, salad anytime I dined outside my own home. Salad was the “safe choice.” The problem: there was plenty of lettuce in my diet, but not nearly enough satisfaction.
It wasn’t really the salad’s fault; the onus was on me. I didn’t know how to create one that would keep me full throughout my day. From when we are young, we learn the basics of a salad (lettuce, tomato, and dressing), and that definition can hamper us as we become adults. I know it did for me.
Since then, I’ve learned that the key from turning the most routine side dish into a satisfying meal is building substance around your favorite greens.
How I Make a Salad Meal
First, I start with a bed of greens. I prefer spinach, but romaine and spring mix are a great base, too. All of them have more nutrients than traditional iceberg.
Then, I find my protein. This will be your key to making sure your salad transforms into a real meal. But don’t just settle for the traditional grilled chicken that you can find on any fast food menu from coast to coast. Think outside the box. I’ve stumbled upon some of my favorite salad combinations by just using whatever leftovers I had in the fridge.
Sure, the leftover chicken breast can be chopped up and thrown in your salad bowl, and that’s a great choice. But let’s say you have a bag of frozen shrimp in your freezer. Shrimp on top of a spinach salad is delicious! Another quick fix is to boil up a dozen hard boiled eggs for the week, and have them on hand all week long to throw into a salad meal.
On days when leftovers are sparse, the key is in your pantry. I try to keep a few healthy items on hand that won’t go bad for this kind of hunger emergency. Keep a bag of ready-made grilled chicken strips in the freezer and you’ll always have a healthy protein ready to go. Cans of tuna and beans are also a great addition.
Once you have your greens and your protein source, make sure you add some healthy fats for satiety. Don’t fall into the “fat is bad” trap! Not all fats are created equal, and eating healthy fats as part of a substantial meal will allow you to avoid the empty calories later in the day. Sometimes, I even fail to practice what I preach, and I always regret it when I’m hungry an hour later. Olive oil and avocado are great choices. I like to mash half an avocado with a bit of either lemon juice and chili power or salsa, for a quick mock-amole.
So, now that you have your greens, protein, and healthy fats ready to go, add some fun toppings! This is where I usually get in some whole grains or extra veggies. I’ll throw in whatever sounds good to me that day: dried cranberries, roasted broccoli, leftover sweet potato wedges, hummus, and corn are all salad meal staples in my house.
Fun Salad Meals to Try
Start with your bed of greens and protein of choice, then add these toppings:
- Mexican Salad: salsa, black beans, pinto beans, corn, avocado
- BBQ Salad: barbequed chicken, corn, baked beans, and sweet potato
- Sunny Side Up Salad: roasted veggies, sunny side up egg (the yolk makes a yummy dressing!)
- Egg Salad Salad: hard boiled eggs, mashed avocado, corn
I promise these salad combos will keep you full and satisfied!
Now that you’ve seen mine, tell me salad combos you love.