Boring, cold, lifeless salads are a thing of the past – the future is all about hearty, satiating ingredients that leave you feeling satisfied and energised instead of uninspired and lethargic. Here’s how to do it.
Add roast veggies
Salads don’t have to revolve solely around raw veggies like cucumber and carrot – roast veggies add smokiness, flavour and a contrasting crispy texture to your bowl. If you made a bake the previous night, you can just dive straight in and use those veggies for lunch – which is why we love leftovers.
You really can’t go wrong with any of the following roast vegetables:
- Sweet potatoes
They also pack a powerful dose of nutrients – and while raw veggies like cucumbers and tomatoes are also rich in vitamins and minerals, there are some vital nutrients that are only released in the cooking process. Phytochemicals and carotenoids – these are the antioxidants which benefit our eye, skin, bone and gut health, along with reducing the risk for diseases – are released in carrots during the heating process, making them an excellent choice to add a nutritional boost to your salad. Roast sweet potatoes also add an element of sweetness to your bowl, and with a little salt and olive oil you’ll notice the skin crisps up perfectly to contrast with the crunchier ingredients.
These protein-packed powerhouses add texture, flavour and more nutrition to your salad. Go for chickpeas – and for extra taste and crunch, roast them up in the oven with paprika and sea salt. Lentils are also an iron-rich addition to your bowl, and their slow-release energy is guaranteed to tide you over to your next meal. Packing over 15 grams of fibre per serve, lentils are a force to be reckoned with – not to mention you’ll get 18% of your iron and protein needs in that same serve. You can also try the following legumes in your next pimped-out salad:
- Kidney beans
- Fava beans
- Mung beans
- Black beans
- Peas – yep, these are legumes too!
This may seem like a typical salad addition – but have you tried adding soft cheeses like cottage or feta to your salad? Go full Greek-style and add in some watermelon for that salty-sweet contrast.
If you enjoy a harder cheese, try some of the following nutritious cheeses in your salad to reinvent your usual bowl:
- Monterey Jack
- Blue cheese
Sprinkle in some nuts and seeds
These aren’t just snack foods or cereal toppings, nuts and seeds can add some volume and crunch to your salad. Walnuts, cashews, peanuts and pistachios all add healthy fats and protein to your bowl, and they provide a bit more excitement and variety to a typically low-key meal. For a protein and omega 3-boost, go for hemp seeds. These essential fatty acids assist with the following:
- Supporting memory function
- Promoting stable moods
- Improving skin health
- Assisting with weight loss
- Promoting bowel regulation
These seeds will also give your salad a nutty, earthy flavour, so if you’re keen to sprinkle some of these tiny powerhouses over your next killer salad, hit up Grass Roots.
Add a source of protein
Tofu, chicken and fish are more commonly associated with dinner affairs, but they are just the ingredient to boost your salad game. Grilled chicken or smokey-baked tofu can help bulk up an otherwise lonely salad, and they’re easy vessels for flavourful additions – for instance, if you pan-fry or roast your tofu in paprika, chilli or turmeric, those flavours will transfer into your salad, creating an entirely different taste experience. Plus, protein is one of the best nutrients to lift your energy levels, having been found to balance our satiety hormones, blood sugars and eve promote weight loss.
Don't forget the fermented foods
There’s no reason you can’t get a hit of probiotics with your midday salad – in fact, the texture of foods like Sauerkraut, kimchi and pickles is satisfyingly crunchy. Plus, you’ll be doing your gut a favour, considering the trillions of bacteria in our microbiome rely upon our diet to maintain a healthy balance. To get these microbes to work to your benefit, you’ll need to tip the balance in favour of the good gut bacteria by eating a range of fermented foods – and cutting down on the sugar! This helps to protect the stomach lining, strengthen immunity and prevent obesity. Yoghurt can also be a great addition to your salad dressing – go for Greek yoghurt for extra protein and creaminess.
If you’re feeling inspired, but are unsure where to start, we’ve got you covered. Give this quick, easy Thai-inspired salad recipe a go – it’s packed with healthy fats, protein and an exciting combination of flavours. It comes straight from the Healthy Family Meals eBook.
Thai Chicken Salad
- Juice of 1 lime
- Leftover shredded chicken or 400-500g chicken thighs chopped into chunks
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons rice malt syrup
- 1 Lebanese cucumber, peeled into ribbons
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 100g snow peas or green beans
- 2 teaspoons tamari or soy sauce
- 3 cups baby spinach
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 200g vermicelli rice noodles
- 2cm knob ginger, grated
- 1 chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
- ½ bunch coriander or mint, roughly chopped
- ½ cupped peanuts, roughly chopped
- Place all the ingredients for the marinade in a small jar with a lid. Shake until combined.
- Pour half of the marinade over chicken thighs (or leftover chicken). Cover and sit in the refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight to marinate. If using raw chicken, heat a pan on medium-high heat. Cook chicken for 5-10 minutes, stirring, until cooked through. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to rest for 5 minutes.
- Prepare vermicelli noodles using the packet directions. Set aside.
- Combine cucumber, snow peas or beans, baby spinach, fresh herbs, vermicelli noodles and peanuts in a large serving bowl. Place chicken or leftover shredded chicken on top of salad. Pour over remaining dressing and toss to combine. Serve.
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