Photos and post are courtesy of Hannah Langley, a Harmons nutrition intern currently pursuing her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Utah.
Hot summer weather is right around the corner and it seems like the perfect time to enjoy a fresh, crisp salad. It sounds good in theory, but what about those who passionately dislike salads? If this sounds like you, fear not, this article is all about how to throw together a salad sure to please even the pickiest salad critics. Say goodbye to the flavorless, texture-less salad of your nightmares and hello to some new skills which will help you build the salad of your dreams!
Not all salads have to contain greens, but it’s never a bad idea to include them when you can. Leafy greens are packed full of vitamins and minerals and add a lot variety in the overall flavor and texture of your salad. Greens act as the base of most salads, so it’s only right to go over some common flavor profiles. Iceberg lettuce may have an appealing crunch, but offers very little flavor or nutrient value. Instead, opt for romaine or chopped cabbage if you’re looking for light flavor and crunch. Spinach has a more distinct earthy taste that adds its own flavor and works well with both light and strong flavored ingredients, making it good in just about any salad. Finally, peppery and bitter greens like arugula and kale are best in salads with simple ingredients because their flavor tends to dominate. Don’t be afraid to add in fresh herbs for extra flavor as well!
A little sweetness goes a long way in salad. Sugar temporarily boosts serotonin, a neurotransmitter related to feelings of happiness and well-being. Too much sugar is detrimental to our health and can overwhelm the flavor of the salad, which is why it’s best to stick with a natural sugar source like fruit. Fruit is also full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, so don’t be afraid to toss a handful in! Berries are great in salads, along with pears, apples, and stone fruits like peaches, plums, or nectarines.
Salt is the most basic of all the seasonings, and for good reason. Adding in a small amount of salt to a dressing or using an ingredient that’s slightly saltier will add more depth to your salad. Examples could be olives, prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes, or feta. Be careful with these ingredients though, a little salt goes a long way. The World Health Organization recommends no more than 2,000 mg per day, while the American Heart Association suggests even fewer, less than 1,500 mg.
Variations in texture are what make salads more interesting and enjoyable to eat. Make sure to include at least one or two ingredients that add a nice crisp or crunch. Some easy ingredients to include are cucumbers, nuts and seeds, roasted chickpeas, fresh corn, sliced Asian pear, or croutons made from whole grain bread. Break up with bland, texture-less salad and try testing out any of these add-ons!
A salad without a healthy fat source is probably going to be dissatisfying and disappointing. Fat takes longer for our body to break down and leaves us feeling fuller and satisfied after a meal. Healthy fats can be incorporated as an ingredient in the actual salad or as a component of the salad dressing. Nuts and seeds are a great source of healthy fats and provide a nice crunch while a little shaved or thinly sliced cheese offers distinct flavor. Avocados can be diced into the salad or blended and used in a creamy dressing along with healthy oils like olive, canola, or algae.
Adding ingredients that have high acidity, like citrus or vinegar, makes a salad taste more bright and fresh. It also adds a little bite and liven up even the simplest dish. That’s why vinaigrette dressings are so popular! Vinaigrettes are very simple to whip up and are a punchy, flavorful addition to any salad. Alternatively, try adding thin slices of citrus fruits into your salad or just squeeze them over the top.
Regardless of whether or not you typically like salads, they’re easy to experiment with. If you’re new to creating salads, try testing out a few combinations that include flavors or ingredients you usually like, using this article as a guide. Pictured here we have our Summer Peach and Prosciutto Salad, and below are more examples to get your imagination flowing!