The simplest way to make produce the center of attention at meals is to serve up an entree salad for lunch or dinner. Salads are super easy to make, won’t weigh you down, and, with the right ingredients, you eat as much as you like—you can never eat too many vegetables
My favorite thing about salads is that they’re so versatile. By mixing up your ingredients you can regularly serve them and never get sick of them—you can also use whatever you happen to have in the refrigerator or any produce that’s on sale at the market that week. Are there some jarred olives in your fridge door? Throw them in. They’re rich in heart-healthy fats that lower cholesterol and improve blood flow. Carrots? They’re a top source of carotenoids, which help maintain sharp vision and healthy joints. Some walnuts in the cupboard? Full of omega-3s, which fight inflammation throughout your body. Onions? Loaded with potent compounds that may help boost memory and fight aches and pains! And be sure to be just as creative with the dressing. Skip the pre-made kinds—which are often loaded with salt, calories, and preservatives—and instead make your own. It’s cheaper, and hands-down better tasting because you can season it with your own zesty and super healthy herbs and spices.
Make your salad bowl a work of art. Vegetables and fruit come in so many different colors because it’s nature’s way of color-coding for vitamins, antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients. So the more color, the better for you. Try to avoid iceberg lettuce—it doesn’t have a fraction of the great nutrients that other, richer green leafy vegetables have—and choose a mix of romaine, spinach, radicchio, arugula, mache; you may be surprised at the variety of different flavors just in lettuce alone. Bell peppers can single-handedly turn a salad into a rainbow, and they pack in twice as much vitamin C as an orange. And don’t forget the tomatoes (which are full of potent antioxidants that may help fight cancer) or the avocados (a terrific source of healthy fats that boost heart health), or the broccoli (a great source of fiber to help fight heart disease). Adding fruit is also a great way to liven up your salad; sliced apples or pears contribute a nice crisp texture, and a sprinkling of dried cranberries add antioxidants and a hit of sweetness. Pineapple chunks? Sunflower seeds? Sardines? The only thing stopping you is your imagination!
To create a fully balanced entrée, make sure you add the protein. A warm skinless chicken breast can make a salad feel like a special occasion. Or, toss in some canned wild salmon—it’s a smart, affordable way to get a blast of omega-3s from fatty fish. Beans and chickpeas are full of protein and fiber, and have the extra benefit of being easy on your pocketbook. And don’t be afraid of the occasional hard-boiled egg. Recent research has found that they’re not as bad for you as once was thought. Eggs are rich in vitamins and minerals, along with high-quality protein that keeps you feeling full and maximizes strength.
Keeping an eye on the good foods is the key to maintaining and restoring health. The Meals On Wheels Association of America knows this, and is responsible for delivering over a million nutritious and balanced meals every single day to seniors who would otherwise go hungry. But it’s not enough. It’s estimated that 2.2 million more meals are needed. Please find out what you can do to help by going to www.mowaa.org today.