Building a Better Version of Your Salad

Why should salads be your new jam? Because contrary to popular opinion, salads CAN be exciting and allow you to be creative with your ingredients. Salads are no longer just bland lettuce, cucumbers, and carrots, but easy to use and nutrient-dense foods. We are here to help with some suggestions on how exactly to top off your salad with foods that will easy to make ideas that are geared towards people with an active lifestyle.
— Skylar

Your foundation

Feel free to do all of one, or half and half—either way, you can’t go wrong!

A)   Greens: Even if you are someone who doesn’t regularly crave a big bowl of greens, we encourage you to add even a small amount, or sauté some in a light amount of Spanish olive oil to add some flavor. Our favorite greens include spinach, kale, and char. We grew up hearing that we need to eat our greens—but why? These green veggies in particular are high in chlorophyll which helps alkalize the body. This means that they will help reduce inflammation (which can surely help after a ride or body class) and improves bone health. Chlorophyll also cleans and provides oxygen to the blood, which is a natural performance enhancer. More clean and available oxygen = increased endurance + less fatigue + improved recovery time.

B)    Quinoa: Besides being sexy, quinoa is one of our favorites for the high quality protein it contains. Quinoa is about 20% protein, and is high in B vitamins, which help better convert carbohydrates into energy more efficiently.

Seeds and Nuts: Salad toppings

A) Pumpkin seeds: A great source of iron, protein, and magnesium. All my fellow vegans & vegetarians out there - this is especially important for those who do not eat red meat.  You may be surprised to know that a cup of pumpkin seeds has the same amount of iron as a serving of dark meat turkey! Foods that are rich in iron are more easily absorbed when eaten with foods that are high in vitamin C (kale, red pepper, oranges, grapefruit).

B) Sesame Seeds: An excellent dose of calcium as well as other minerals like copper, zinc, and iron, and is easily absorbed by the body. If you’ve never looked up the nutritional profile of sesame seeds, you may want to Google that!

C) Almonds: High in vitamin B, fiber, and antioxidant, almonds have one of the highest nutrient levels of all nuts.

D) Walnuts: High in B vitamins, potassium, and magnesium. Walnuts are found to help maintain adequate electrolyte levels in the body and help prolong hydration—which is especially important with how much we sweat!

Proteins

As I said, many of our seed and nut (and even veggie) friends have more protein than many of us realize! Below are a few easy protein sources, depending on your dietary and taste preferences.

A)   Legumes: High in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Some of our favorites are lentils and chickpeas for their versatility. Fun fact—one cup of lentils contain 20% of your daily B6 (which gives you energy), 36% of your daily iron needs, and 36% of your daily protein!

B)    Eggs: Have all 9 amino acids, making them a complete protein and good source of B12 and vitamin D. Try to buy “pastured” eggs, because the “free-range” and “cage free” don’t quite tell the whole story of the conditions of the animals.

C)    Fish: An easily digestible source of protein. Fish is also high in omega-3s which help with inflammation, as well as being high in B vitamins and magnesium. Always buy “wild” caught fish!

D)  Grilled Meat:  If/When you do eat meat, invest in top notch quality: local, grassfed, pasture raised.  Throw it on the grill with some sea salt, onion & garlic powder and then slice up once cooled.

Here’s Where The Party Starts

A)   Roasted Veggies: While “roasting” vegetables can take out some of the nutritional benefit, they are delicious and still incredibly healthy. Try cutting some of your favorite veggies and spraying with olive oil and baking in the oven until browned to preference. My all time favorite is roasted beets because they are rich in antioxidants and high in anti-inflammatory compounds which can greatly improve endurance and recovery time! Roasted carrots, asparagus, and squash are some other great options!

B)    Raw Veggies: It is important to try to incorporate even a small amount of raw vegetables. Red, orange, and yellow peppers are our pick—they’re sweet, give your salad some texture, and are incredibly high in important vitamins and minerals. For instance, one medium red pepper has 253% of your daily vitamin C needs!

C)    Berries: If you’re going to have fruit, or just love a sweet component to your salad, berries are the way to go. While fruit gets a bad rap for being high in sugar, a small amount of berries can help fight sickness with the high amounts of antioxidants they contain.

D)   Avocado: Eating fat does not make us fat—eating foods that are chemically processed and loaded with artificial fats and ingredients—that could make us fat. Avocados are a fruit that is basically all fat, and it’s amazing! Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which help fight inflammation and their specific type of fat content makes it easy for the body to better absorb fat-soluble nutrients.

Naked, or Dressed?

When you add all the amazing add-in's listed above, you might find you don't even need dressing!  However, if a salad without dressing feels naked to you, here are two great options:

A)   Asian-inspired: About ½ cup sesame oil, ¼ cup rice vinegar, and ¼ cup liquid aminos (tastes similar to soy sauce but without all the junk and MSG). Liquid aminos contain proteins from soybeans and have no added salt (you can find at whole foods).

B)    Refreshing: About 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 3/4 cup olive oil, fresh stem of rosemary, sea salt, and garlic (shake all in a container and let sit to let the rosemary flavor build). Try to use “unfiltered, raw” apple cider vinegar, such as Bragg's.

Kat Zajacrecipes, salads