I know I’m 6 days late but…..Happy National Nutrition Month!!
In case you didn’t know (and weren’t already celebrating) March is National Nutrition Month. The themed month was created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to promote healthy eating in this country. I think March is a great time to revitalize your healthy eating and exercise habits that may have fallen to the wayside at some point between New Year’s Day and….well, now. Also, spring is coming and warm weather tends to be a great motivator to eat better. No. More. Hibernation.
The theme for this month is “Get Your Plate in Shape!” And the icon features a heart-shaped plate pumping some iron. It emphasizes whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and EXERCISE!
Speaking of plates full of veggies I wanted to talk about building a better salad. Oftentimes we hear about salads clocking more calories and fat than cheeseburgers. Last year, The Cheesecake Factory came out with its “SkinnyLicious” menu. All entrees listed were under 590 calories, and some were salads (which makes me wonder how many calories are in their salads that remain on the original menu and didn’t make the “SkinnyLicious” cut). Salads can be a great, healthy and filling meal, if you know how to build them right.
The Salad Bar SimmeRDown!:
Start with the base: Baby spinach, romaine, arugula and mixed greens all make good choices. These leaves are packed with nutrition and using them to fill up your plate helps you stay healthy. Not to mention, lettuce doesn’t weigh all that much, which is good to know when you are paying by the pound. $$$
Top with more veggies: Make it colorful! Most salad bars have fresh shredded carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, beets, celery, and mushrooms are good choices. If you see corn, peas, or potatoes feel free to add a portion, but remember these are starchy vegetables and contribute more heft to your salad.
Healthy fats: Salad bars sometimes have avocado, nuts, olives, and olive oil. A great way to add some healthy fats to your diet! Also these fats will help you absorb all the nutrients in your salad(like vitamins A, D, E and K) But be careful not to pile them on just because the word “healthy” is in front. These are still fats, so pick one or two and keep the servings small.
Protein: To make your salad a meal and make sure it keeps you full be sure to choose a protein source. Here are some typically found on salad bars: beans, low-fat cheese or cottage cheese, hard-boiled eggs, tuna, tofu, grilled chicken. Try and avoid tuna and chicken salads that look smothered in mayo.
Carbs: I also think salads need some carbohydrates to keep me full. Think a side of whole grain pita or roll. Or (if they are available) add some grains or starchy veggies to your salad like brown rice, quinoa, potatoes, and/or corn.
The end of the line: This is typically where all the enticing toppings live. Crunchy fried thingies. Croutons. Wasabi peas. And the dressings. This section of the salad bar can really do some damage to the healthy salad you have been building. I try and stick to dressing my salad with the vinegar and oil they usually have, but if you really love pre-made dressings watch your portions! Even the low-fat ones have some fat and typically added sugars.
And building a salad like this keeps it in line with the ‘Get your plate in shape’ icon-lots o’ veggies, some healthy protein and carbs. I hope this helps you enjoy some yummy and nutrient rich salads in the future!
I believe this is an arugula salad with some quinoa, hummus and cherry tomatoes.