September is almost the unofficial start to the year. The fall is a great time to regroup and hit the ground running. This month is the perfect opportunity to recommit to those goals you set back in January.
One easy step towards improving your health and nutrition is by following a more plant-based diet. You don’t necessarily have to become a vegan or vegetarian, but adding more plants into your diet can help you manage your weight and also improve your overall health. Plant-based diets have been linked to countless health benefits, including reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and even cognitive decline. The nice thing about a plant-based diet is that it focuses more on foods that we can add in as opposed to foods we need to cut out.
In order to incorporate more plants into your diet, a salad a day is a great start. Not only does a salad allow you to pack in quite a bit of vegetables, but it’s also a great way to sneak in extra fiber and water. Don’t forget, vegetables carry a lot of water and can help you stay hydrated, too. Incorporating a salad can help fight that mid-afternoon slump and keep you feeling energized for hours. Here are a few tips for creating a truly powerhouse salad meal.
Start with a powerhouse green
Your green base is really personal preference. If you love romaine or iceburg lettuce, you can certainly choose that as your base, but keep in mind that these varieties of lettuce but they don’t have much nutritional value. The darker green leafy vegetables such as spinach, arugula, and kale have a much higher vitamin and mineral content. If you can, try to choose one of these darker greens or opt for a combo of both.
Go lean with protein
Although our vegetables are giving us fiber, we still need protein to help stabilize our blood sugar and promote satiety. Opt for a lean protein such as grilled chicken or baked salmon. Or, choose a plant-based protein such as chickpeas or edamame.
Load up on veggies
Add as many non-starchy vegetables as you would like. This is the best way to add color, flavor, and bulk to your salad. Some veggie favorites include red bell peppers, shredded carrots, beets, celery, jicama, tomatoes, cucumbers, and sugar snap peas. The more colors, the more antioxidant variety and health benefits.
Add a healthy fat
Tons of anti-inflammatory benefits from choosing a healthy fat to add to your salad, plus any healthy fat adds a ton of flavor., such as unsalted chopped nuts (walnuts or almonds are both heart-healthy favorites) or diced avocado. Unsalted seeds are a great addition as well.
Dress it up
Choose your dressing wisely. Is your salad look more like dressing with a side of lettuce? Don’t throw away all the benefits of your salad by dousing it in heavy dressing. Opt for vinaigrettes over creamy dressings. You can also simply do olive oil and vinegar if you want something super light. Trader Joe’s carries a few delicious low-calorie creamy dressings (ie: Green Goddess, Almond Butter Turmeric, Carrot Ginger Miso) that are only about 20 calories for a two tablespoon serving. Mix everything together, and enjoy.
Stefani Sassos, MS, RDN, CSO, CDN, CPT, is a clinical dietitian and certified personal trainer. She also provides private nutrition counseling at her office in Great Neck. Visit her website www.stefhealthtips.com for more information or call 516-216-9909 to schedule an appointment.