Fast-food outlets and many other restaurants have embraced the idea that salad is the future. Some salads are better for you than others, but choosing a menu item with more vegetables is a good start.
Today's salads offer a variety of greens, often with fruits, nuts, cheese, seeds, roasted or grilled vegetables, and beef, chicken, or fish.
Eating salads out is fine, but you can build a better salad at home, even if you buy a lot of the ingredients already cut. Today's most important feature is convenience.
First, decide what you want your salad to be. Is it a meal or a side dish? Second, when do you want to eat it? Americans largely prefer the salad before the entrée; Europeans take it after.
Special salad ideas
Here are some tips to help you get started:
Shop well. Get the freshest vegetables and fruits you can find for color and crunch. Washed greens are a good choice for a quick meal. Spring mix offers a gourmet assortment of baby lettuces.
Dress it lightly. Pouring on high-fat dressing can undo your salad's health benefits. But you can enjoy the taste of dressing if you choose low-fat or fat-free varieties. Try making a homemade vinaigrette with less oil and more vinegar.
Accessorize. Add interest with artichoke hearts, beets, roasted peppers, snap peas, water chestnuts, pecans, or walnuts. The list is endless!
Sweeten it up. Include some fruit, such as strawberries, blueberries, grapes, apples, or pear slices.
Change the shape of your salad. Instead of a tossed salad, build up layers of colorful ingredients in the ring of a spring form pan.
Add protein. This is important if the salad is your meal. Hard-boiled eggs, ham, turkey, chicken, and tuna are among the staples. A little pungent cheese—think gorgonzola or aged provolone—can enrich your greens. Go easy on saturated fat. To turn up the nutritional value, include beans or soy.