Food Substitutions: Salad 2.0
Today's blog is dedicated to remodeling your salad. Let's be done permanently with stale iceberg lettuce, dried out baby carrots and sour tomato wedges topped with fabricated salty goo. Forever.
To elevate your salad to the truly nutritious meal component that I know it can be, let's cover some basic substitutions to get you there.
Iceberg Lettuce Substitutions
An incredibly easy way to increase your potassium and folate intake (both typically too low in the American diet) is to increase your dark green leafy veggies. Mix it up! Although some varieties of greens are pricey – you can minimize cost by mixing them with less expensive greens (e.g. red leaf lettuce mixed with arugula and fresh chives). You can get many of these varieties at your local supermarket, Farmers Market or at specialty grocers like Whole Foods. Of course, you can also grow your own!
- Red leaf lettuce
- Green leaf lettuce
- Mesclun (or baby greens)
- Fresh cilantro, parsley, or basil leaves
- Fresh chives or dill
Carrot Prep Substitutions
I have a great disdain for dry, whitish-sheen whole baby carrots casually plopped onto my salad or lying helplessly neglected at a poorly maintained salad bar. However, carrots are extremely nutritious and an excellent source of beta carotene, the plant's precursor to Vitamin A. Here's how to keep a carrot's flavor, texture and nutritional value at its peak.
- Store in refrigerator in an airtight container vs. unsecured bag
- Wash and peel your carrots. More mature carrots can have bitter peels.
- For maximal crispy sweetness and palatability, SHRED the peeled carrot.
Let's face it, if you live in most areas of the world, you don't get fresh tomatoes very often. Instead of paying top dollar for out of season tomatoes, why not substitute tomatoes with these other ingredients that are also good sources of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals?
- Sweet peppers: higher in Vitamin C than tomatoes
- Beets: raw, peeled and shredded
Find that cucumbers are hard to digest? Just peel them! You still get nutritional benefit from the seeds and viscous fiber inside. Or if you just want something a little different - something moist and gently crispy with a little bite - try:
- Radishes, thinly sliced or shredded
- Try different colors and varieties of radishes!
We like the crunchiness of croutons but bemoan the lack of texture and flavor of the lifeless, low-fat croutons on the market. These simple substitutions will help you increase your fiber intake and possibly lower sodium.
- Homemade whole grain croutons
- Homemade whole wheat baked pita chips with olive oil and rosemary
- Leftover whole wheat pizza crust (save crust edge for salad instead of throwing away)
- Roasted chickpeas
- Crushed water crackers or whole wheat crackers
Salad Dressing Substitutions
We typically think of salad dressing as the glue that binds everything together in the salad, but we also rely on it for flavor. Try tricking your taste buds into accepting these subs which will give you more nutrients for the calories compared to standard salad dressings.
- Low fat cottage cheese mixed with 1 tsp tahini (sesame paste)
- 1 oz nuts (e.g. pistachios, walnuts, almonds, or peanuts)
- 1 oz seeds (e.g. pumpkin, sunflower, or toasted sesame seeds).
- Low-fat tuna salad
- Low-fat chicken salad
- Balsamic vinegar + 1 tsp olive oil (find the best quality you can afford for both)
- 1 oz feta cheese
- 1 oz mozzarella cheese
Have your own substitution ideas for salads? We would love to read them. Please post comments!
Kathy Isacks, MPS, RD
Consulting Dietitian for MyNetDiary
Disclaimer: Please note that we cannot provide personalized advice and that the information provided does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit a medical professional.