Creating the perfect salad

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If you’re a salad lover but want to devour the entire fridge when you get home from work, you might need to re-evaluate what goes into your salad. While vegetable packed salads are very nutritious, for a lunch time meal you need to make sure you get the balance right to stop you from feeling starving an hour or two later. So while there’s no such thing as a ‘perfect’ salad (only one that’s perfectly delicious for you!),  here are some guidelines to create a salad with some balance.  Utlimately, choose what fits best with you and what makes you feel good.

Here’s how to create the perfect salad with some balance.

  1.  Vegetable base

    Pick your favourite non starchy vegetables and aim for 1-2 cups. To keep it interesting, think of texture when you create your salad.  I personally like a bit of crunch in my salad, so I’ll mix red cabbage, red onion, capsicum or cucumber or a mix of these with some leafy greens.Some of my favourite mixes are:

    •  Finely sliced red cabbage, red onion or spring onion,  italian parsley, grated carrot and finely sliced capsicum
    • Baby beetroot, red onion and baby spinach
    • Shredded lettuce, spring onion, fresh herbs, baby spinach and cucumber
    • Finely chopped red onion, tomato, cucumber and herbs

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  2. Protein

    Protein is the king when it comes to helping keep you full.  Having a serve of protein at most meals helps with maintaining body composition as it provides amino acids for muscle repair.

    Protein can come from both animal and plant sources.  I will often have boiled eggs, chicken or left over meat from dinner in my salads, and sometimes I’ll add legumes such as chickpeas for a plant based protein.  Legumes like chickpeas, black beans and lentils not only provide protein, but also a source of slow release carbohydrate and fibre so they’re great for helping keep you feeling full.

  3. Healthy fats

    Nuts, seeds, avocado, cheeses and good quality dressings fit here.   They make your salad super tasty and add fats that provide beneficial nutrients.  Some vitamins need fat for your body to absorb them, so to best utilise the vitamins in your vegetables, a little fat is needed.  Fat is energy dense so for most people a small serve is all you need.  For example, 1/4 to 1/2 an avocado or a small handful of nuts.
  4. Carbohydrates

 I like to have a serve of carbohydrate with my salad.  Sometimes I add fruit (grapes or mango can be yummy) or eat it separately afterwards.  Legumes, grains such as quinoa or brown rice are nice on the side, and starchy vegetables such as potato, kumara, parsnip and corn taste great mixed through. You could also have it with some good quality bread.   Not everyone is a fan of carbs at lunch, but personally I find my energy levels are better if I include carbohydrate, especially If I’m planning on exercising after work.  If you’re not going to have the carbohydrate, you could increase your healthy fats a little to help keep you feeling full.

Here’s two of my favourite salad recipes:

Citrus chicken salad with macadamia nuts and avocado

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Roast vegetable salad with crispy chickpeas

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What is your perfect salad combination?

4 Responses to Creating the perfect salad

  1. Sus November 17, 2015 at 9:16 pm #

    Great advice, thanks Nicola.

    Lately I’ve been devouring a salad of roast kumura, toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, baby spinach, red onion, and whatever other salad items I have to hand. e.g. cooked mushrooms and capsicums, or cucumber and tomato etc. I like to dress it with balsamic dressing or have a side of hummus. I prep a bunch for the next few days so it’s ready to go. And add either a boiled egg on the side or some chicken to the salad.

  2. Lynda and Jayde @ Incited Inc November 20, 2015 at 7:18 pm #

    We’ve been trying to think up salad ideas, so thanks for these suggestions. The citrus chicken salad looks delicious!!!!

  3. Alex Asher December 7, 2015 at 4:37 pm #

    This is a great breakdown of how to build a salad. Grated beetroot and carrots are my two favourite ingredients for a base. Yum

  4. Nicola December 7, 2015 at 6:55 pm #

    Thanks Alex! Oh yes I love those two together as well. So yummy.

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