Back in my dieting days I was always ordering a salad when I went out to eat. I talk about this a lot actually…I’d go out with girlfriends who had the food freedom mentality to order what they wanted (pasta, burgers, pizza) and I was always just gettin’ a salad.
But you know those salads you get when you’re out that are just plain SAD?
A few pieces of lifeless lettuce, one cherry tomato, a slice of onion and croutons (which I got on the side anyways). How was THIS supposed to fill me up? How was THIS supposed to not make me feel deprived, depressed and miserable?
Since those days I’ve made it my mission to take salads from boring to delicious and desirable!
Not only do I love making my own huge salads at home, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve that I stick to when ordering salads out at a restaurant that I’ll share too.
I should also note that just because something is called a salad, does not mean it’s healthy. Restaurants and popular chains often use a bed of greens as a disguise for super sugary dressing (I’m talking LOADED with sugar) candied nuts (more sugar) and dried fruit (um, more sugar).
So instead of just ordering a salad, check out the ingredients and focus on making quality your priority. What is the salad made up of? Are you adding protein? Getting lots of greens and color? Is there healthy fat in there to keep you full?
Salads can be a great way to get in a ton of essential vitamins and minerals, experiment with different tastes and textures, and get in lots of greens! Which is always a good thing.
Here’s what I’ve been up to with my salad-making madness lately…
Add in roasted veggies
I’ve been going absolutely crazy for this lately! Roasted veggies are obviously delicious on their own..but they really jazz up a salad.
Roasting veggies naturally brings out their innate sweetness so it’s a great way to get savory and sweet flavors in a salad without a sugary dressing.
Plus they add a ton of color which also equals a ton of nutrition.
Some of my favorites are cinnamon carrot fries, butternut squash, beets, sweet potato and even plantains!
All of these guys happen to be in the soluble fiber, and starchy veggie category which are great for feeding the good gut bugs in our GI tract that contributes to healthy digestion and immunity.
This colorful group of veggies is also great to replenish us on days that we’ve been physically or mentally active and can even contribute to de-stressing us by nourishing our adrenals (the glands that live above our kidneys and pump out cortisol- our stress hormone).
Starchy carbs can even promote healthy thyroid health- which plays a huge role in mood, sleep and weight.
I’m big on changing up tastes and textures in my salads, so roasted veggies on salads is a win, win for me.
Meal prep, which I talked about here recently can make this really easy. I recommend prepping a few trays of veggies for the week on the weekend, and that way you’ve got tons of variety and options for topping greens and transforming that into a huge, delicious salad.
Spiralize your veggies
Ok this is another thing I have been freaking out over lately. Spiralizing veggies is all the rave right now, and for a good reason. You can make zucchini noodles, cabbage noodles, sweet potato noodles, and even cucumber noodles (my new obsession). Honestly, the list is endless. I highly recommend checking out the Inspiralizer. The creator also has a ton of Instagram videos show you how to spiralize anything- which I think happens to be her motto, and mine now too? Haha.
The reason I’m so into this, is because it’s a great pasta substitute! A lot of us are finding we feel better without grains and gluten, but are missing pasta. So now you can spiralize anything, have veggies noodles and then do not have to feel left out!
But back to salads...lately I’ve loved adding spiralized veggies to my salads! It adds a ton of bulk, nutrition and is a huge difference in texture!
My two favorites are zucchini noodles, and cucumber noodles.
I’ve been prepping these ahead of time (I’ll cook the zucchini noodles slightly by sautéing them in 1 tsp. of coconut oil for a few minutes) and store them in tupperware for salads for the week.
These types of salads really fill me up and every bite has so much goodness going on, I just really love them!
Healthy Fats are a must
Is anyone else with me…I used to eat FAT-FREE ranch dressing.
And it’s hard to admit.
Really tough because I just have to tell you the first 5 ingredients in fat-free ranch: water, corn syrup, maltodextrin, sugar and modified food starch. This is not food. I can’t believe the extremes I went to to avoid fat, at the cost of ingesting tons of chemicals and loads of refined sugar.
Well, you live and you learn. And those days are far behind me! I want them to be far behind you, too!
It’s a huge testament and something I hang my hat on in my practice- read ingredients labels! Just because something has beautiful packaging and says it’s low-fat or low-calorie (even though I do not pay huge importance to either of those things-more on that in a second) it’s so much more about the ingredients that product is made up of.
Each and every time I pick something up, that’s the first place my eyes go. I simply won’t accept a crap list of ingredients!
Oh and fat does not make you fat, and calories are not the end all be all. Read this out loud and repeat it if you have to. I used to!
Healthy fat is essential, boosts metabolism, feeds or brains, gives us energy and keeps us full. I truly believe that 95% of diets fail because 95% of diets out there focus on a low-fat way of eating.
This is simply not sustainable and you will be hungry and moody.
Healthy fat is not only amazing for all of the reasons I mentioned above but it’s also essential for us to absorb fat-soluble vitamin A, D, E and K. So when you’re putting together a gorgeous salad filled to the brim with colorful veggies…and you drizzle a fat-free dressing on top you’re not going to be getting all of the nutrition that you think you are.
Can you tell I’m passionate about healthy fats!? They also give flavor to your salads and I’ll say it again- keep you full!
Here’s ways to add healthy fat:
- As a dressing- Olive oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil, macadamia nut oil
- Raw or plain nuts and seeds- cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc.
- Fattier proteins- pastured bacon, grass-fed beef burger, salmon, sardines
Here’s what I recommend when ordering a salad out at a restaurant:
- Load up on greens and veggies- make sure it’s not just iceberg, look for some deeper greens like arugula, spinach and kale and a variety and generous quantity of other veg
- Don’t be afraid to ask for what you don’t want - skip anything “candied” or “glazed” and things like croutons and tortilla strips
- Make sure there is protein in there! A burger without a bun, salmon, or chicken
- Make sure you’ve got healthy fat- like the things I’ve listed above or don’t be afraid to ask to add one! An easy way to this is to skip the dressing the salad comes with and ask for olive oil and lemon juice instead!
Hope these were helpful! I guess I have a lot to say on this topic!! Comment below and let me know what your favorite way to spice up a salad is!