One of the easiest ways to participate in Meatless Monday is by having a big salad for one of your meals. Of course, I’m not talking a colorless ol’ iceberg lettuce salad with a few croutons. That won’t do much to fill you up—or make you feel like you actually ate. I’m talking a big and hearty salad that looks colorful, is rich in protein, is big enough to count as a meal (if that’s all you’re having), and is also is low-fat and low-cal. Think the Whole Foods salad bar, minus the Whole Paycheck price.
Of course, as with the salad bar, it’s all-too-easy to create a kitchen sink salad that’s fatty instead of healthy, so here are a few tips to keep it on the diet-friendly side.
- Prepare ahead of time. Prepare for your homestyle salad bar by chopping tons of your favorite vegetables the day before so they’re on hand and easy to use.
- Pay attention. Ballpark the amount of calories you’d like your salad to be and keep a general running count as you make it (especially for the fattier items).
- Make it easy on yourself. Buy ready-to-use greens and other vegetables. In the Northeast, Olivia’s has ready-to-eat baby kale, which I use for salads, green smoothies, and sautés.
- Be generous with greens. Load up on leafy greens and low-fat veggies.
- Remember a little fat goes a long way. Be more mindful with your nuts, fattier vegetables (like avocado), cheeses, and creamy dressings.
- Think of only low-cal veggies are “free” food. Also, be mindful with items that are healthy, but that add up more quickly calorie-wise (full fat tofu, many of the substitute meat products, anything fried, creamy salads, grains, beans).
- Explore the rainbow. For visual allure, choose veggies from across the rainbow and arrange in a pleasing manner.
- Experiment with tanginess. Try making your own tangy dressing with a squeeze of lemon or a bit of vinegar and only the merest drizzle of olive oil or mixing down full-fat dressing with the aforementioned. (Full fat dressing easily add 100+ calories, and the low-cal versions often have tons of sugar to make up for the lack of fat.
Here’s my lunch salad today:
- Huge bowl filled with baby kale and spinach, about 5 cups (both ready-to-eat)
- Red bell peppers
- Cucumber (drizzled with balsamic)
- Chick peas
- A bit of leftover baked tofu from last night (lowfat tofu baked with tamari, thin film of olive oil, chopped garlic, nutritional yeast, oregano, pepper)
- Tiny sprinkling of pine nuts
- A squeeze of lemon
- Cayenne pepper, black pepper
On the subject of my Whole Foods mention above, and in case you haven’t seen it, I close with the spot-on video “It’s Getting Real in the Whole Foods Parking Lot”
Happy Monday! (You can find out more about Meatless Monday here.)
What are your favorite salad secrets?