When people ask me for shortcuts for getting healthier and feeling better, I tell them two things. Firstly, that there are no shortcuts and health should be lifelong pursuit. Then, once I’ve stepped off my high horse 😎, I tell them to eat more vegetables.
I’ve talked before about the importance of eating at least 7-10 portions of fruit and mostly vegetables per day, and one of the easiest ways of upping your daily veg count is by adding in a big salad for lunch or dinner. You could even go off-piste and have a salad for breakfast!
I like to follow the protein-fat-carbohydrate formula to build my salads. Why protein, fat and carbohydrate? Proteins and fats take longer to digest, so you’re fuller for longer. The carbohydrates, in the form of vegetables, are the source of important micronutrients and fibre.
A satiating salad at lunch should ideally see you all the way through to dinner, with no need for snacks (unless you’ve done a really intense workout!)
The building blocks of a good, nourishing salad are generally 50% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 20% fat. Here are some good examples of ingredients for each of the macronutrient building blocks – use organic ingredients where you can!
Protein: Shredded chicken, pork or beef, legumes, pulses, crumbled feta, sliced mozzarella, sliced hard boiled eggs, slices of smoked salmon or anchovies
Fats: Sliced avocado, nuts, such as walnuts, crushed pistachios, almonds or cashews, pumpkin, sunflower or sesame seeds, olive oil
- Grated cabbage, carrots, beetroot or kohlrabi
- Sliced radish, cucumber, red pepper, tomato, olive or red onions
- Steamed green beans, broccoli, asparagus or cauliflower
- Roasted and cubed potato, sweet potato or squash
- And of course, loads of greens. I’m a fan of spinach, cos, bibb or romaine lettuce, and have also been known to drop in a little radicchio or escarole, depending on what’s in season. The one lettuce I never recommend is iceberg. It generally lacks flavour and doesn’t really add much to a salad.
- If grains suit you, you can add a cup of cooked quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice or couscous.
- Fermented veg like kimchi, sauerkraut or pickles
- Dressings: I tend to prefer a simple squeeze of lemon juice, a splash of extra virgin olive oil and a dash of salt & pepper. If you have the time, you could premake a lemon vinagrette and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks. You can start by whisking together 3 tablespoons of EVOO and one tablespoon of lemon juice and then tweaking from there. Or substitute red wine or balsamic vinegar if you don’t fancy lemon juice.
- Extras (if you want to add some more oomph to your salad): Chopped herbs like basil, dill, coriander, rosemary and chives are nice to sprinkle over, as are sliced bell peppers or chilli flakes.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to a big ass salad. Just open your fridge door, use the protein, fat, carbohydrate formula and see how you get on!
Here’s one for you to try:
Autumn Squash Salad (serves 1 – 2)
5 cups mixed greens
1 large diced tomato
4 sliced radishes (I used a mandoline to slice mine)
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/4 cup roasted squash
1/2 cup shredded roast chicken (use the leftovers from your Sunday roast!)
3-4 tablespoons lemon vinaigrette
Toss together in a bowl and enjoy!
What are your favourite autumn salads?