Salads are a mainstay for many people, and summertime is the perfect time to savor them. There are many reasons to enjoy a salad, and if you happen to frequent a farmer’s market or have a vegetable garden, it’s very tempting to throw one together. With so many fresh vegetables and healthful fruits available at this time of year, why not eat one today?
Reasons to eat salad
Some people view salads as “rabbit food,” but maybe they haven’t had a really good salad! There are several reasons to fit salads into your eating plan:
Fruit and vegetable servings. We’re all constantly told about how we should eat more fruits and vegetables. Sometimes it may seem hard to fit nine servings in each day, but a salad is a great way to check off some of those servings. Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can help protect against a number of diseases, including heart disease and cancer.
Fiber. Fruits and vegetables also contain fiber, an important nutrient that helps maintain healthy digestion, helps fill you up, and can even help smooth out blood sugar levels.
Weight control. If you fill up on leafy greens, carrots, peppers, and any other vegetable, there will be little room for higher-calorie foods. If your goal is to lose or maintain weight, many health experts recommend starting off a meal by eating a salad to help you eat less during the rest of your meal.
Blood sugar control. Besides being high in fiber, typical salad vegetables are very low in carbohydrate. That means you can eat your fill and not have to worry about a spike in your blood sugar levels afterwards.
Some salads are not all they’re cracked up to be. Adding high-fat, high-calorie foods can quickly turn a nutritious food into a fat-laden disaster. Avoid or at least go easy on these:
• Creamy salad dressings
• Bacon bits
• Fried or processed meats
Salad in a jar
Salads are great, but preparing them — not so much. Taking the time to prepare a salad and then store it can be a hassle. And bringing salad to work can be challenging since you need a container for the salad and a separate one for the dressing.
One of the newest ways to fix a salad is to make it in a mason jar. Mason jars are cheap, easy, and very portable. You can fill several mason jars with salad at a time and have them ready for you for the week ahead. Mason jar salads have become so popular that a quick Internet search will lead you to a number of different salad options. But to get you started, here are a few tips:
• Pick the right size Mason jar or any glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. A quart size will likely work best. Also, glass jars will keep the ingredients fresher than plastic containers.
• Add your salad dressing first. Vinaigrette or other noncreamy dressings work best since they come out of the jar more easily.
• Next, add hearty vegetables (not lettuce) to form a barrier from the dressing: tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, broccoli…the list can go one. Choose what you like!
• Then add a layer of “less hearty” vegetables or beans, such as avocado, mushrooms, pinto beans, or chickpeas, for example. You can also use cut-up fruit, too.
• If you want your jar salad to be more of a balanced meal, add a layer of a whole-grain, such as whole-grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa, or couscous.
• Then comes the protein, if you choose. Chopped-up boiled eggs, chicken breast, feta cheese, or cottage cheese work well.
• Finally, add the lettuce and/or greens, such as baby spinach, arugula, or kale, for example. For extra nutrition, sprinkle in some nuts or seeds. Then put the lid on tightly and refrigerate.
And there you have it: A salad (or a meal) in its very own jar. For easy eating, flip the jar over a few times to disperse the dressing and then pour out the salad into a bowl or on a plate. You can make up several jars ahead of time. By the way, the salad possibilities are endless. I like the mix-and-match chart of ingredients in this article. Come up with your own creations and, most importantly, enjoy!