I realize a lot of people think eating a salad of any sort should score them big points in the healthy clean eating department. But, I’ve been around the salad block and I know salads aren’t always healthy, or “clean”. If you pile on the wrong sort of things (think globs of cheese, heavy cream-based dressings, processed meats, bacon bits, croutons made with refined flour and empty-calorie vegetable oils, blah, blah, blah.) a salad can quickly turn into a total nutritional nightmare. The other side of the coin is that some salads are so “light” you might as well be munching on air. What good is eating a salad for lunch if 20 minutes later you start craving pizza, burgers and fries?
Salads Don’t Always Need to Have Lettuce
One of the keys to healthy whole foods eating is to fill up on nutrient-dense foods that supply lots of nutrition, lots of fiber and lots of bang for every bite. I’m a huge salad eater and I can tell you a salad can absolutely be super filling AND nutritious (and slimming too!) IF you make it with the right ingredients. Furthermore, a salad doesn’t even need to have lettuce to be a “salad”. A lot of times I make lettuce-free salads with one or two raw or lightly cooked vegetables (such as the recipe for this Orange and Asparagus Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette). I also love adding fruits (both fresh and dry) and fresh herbs to my salad. Get creative!! When making salad, try to think outside of the salad bowl….
Another huge factor determining whether a salad is healthy or not is the oil you use for the dressing or vinaigrette. If you buy bottled dressings (as most people do) you can be 90% sure you’ll be eating empty-calorie, highly refined, pro-inflammatory vegetable oil (such as “pure” vegetable oil, soybean oil, corn oil, etc) that not only tastes terrible but also won’t do a thing for promoting good health (or slimming your waistline). By using a high quality oil (such as unrefined extra virgin olive oil, hempseed oil or flax oil) you can substantially boost the health and taste of your salad. Even if you do use healthy oil as a base for your dressing or vinaigrette, you still don’t need to go crazy pouring pounds of it on your salad. By mixing fresh herbs, garlic and something acidic (such as vinegar or lemon juice) with your oil you get big bold flavors thus only needing to use the dressing sparingly. You can then round your salad out with some finely chopped raw nuts. In a matter of minutes you can prepare a super healthy whole foods meal that will fill you up…not out!
This recipe below is adapted from my Whole Foods Diet Cookbook. The video shows you how easy it is to do!!
Orange and Asparagus Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
- 1/4 cup flax oil (such as Barleans)
- 3-4 cloves chopped garlic
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
- Unrefined sea salt, to taste
- Place all of the ingredients in a blender; process until smooth and creamy.
Note: vinaigrette will keep up to 3 days if stored in a covered container in your refrigerator.
- 1 1/2 pounds asparagus, tough ends trimmed
- 2 oranges, cut into thin slices
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
- Prepare a large ice bath.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add asparagus and cook 3-4 minutes, until just fork-tender. Drain the asparagus, rinse with cool water and immediately plunge it into the ice bath. Let the asparagus sit in the ice bath for 4-5 minutes to stop the cooking process. Remove the asparagus from the ice bath and pat dry with paper towels (it’s important not to skip this step or your vinaigrette will slide right off).
- Place the asparagus in a large serving bowl. Add the shallots and oranges, gently toss to coat.
- Drizzle the vinaigrette on top of the salad and gently toss. Sprinkle the pecans on top. Let your salad it at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before serving (this will help the flavors develop).