6 ways to spruce up your salad this summer

6 ways to spruce up your salad this summer

We all know salad is good for you. But it’s hard to stick with eating salad every day if it’s just plain old lettuce, tomato and cucumber.

Adding variety of flavour, colour and texture to a salad will make it more appetising, so you’ll eat more of it and avoid snacking later in the day.

Here are some tips to boosting salads with nutrition and taste from Themis Chryssidis, accredited practising dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia.

Add high-nutrient ingredients

Look for foods that will give your salad a nutrition boost. These aren’t necessarily ingredients marketed as "superfoods", a term that’s been used to describe foods that are rich in nutrients, Chryssidis says.

'Superfood' is a marketing term that people have used to try to sell health benefits related to the nutrient composition of a food product."

There are some not-so-glamourous foods that aren’t marketed as superfoods but are just as nutritious, he says.

And think about how much you would need to eat of a certain food to get the promised nutrition.

For instance, spirulina is claimed to be a superfood and high in protein, with 60g of protein per 100g. However, Chryssidis says this simply isn’t practical as the recommended serving size is 3-5g, which will only provide 2-3g of protein.

"The reality is that you're never going to eat 100g of spirulina in one sitting, so it’s a ridiculous claim," he says.

"Compare that to two eggs, which will give you 10-12g of protein. That's much more practically achievable to eat, and it feeds into the normal daily dietary habits of Australians."

Variety is nutritious and appetising

Adding a range of foods to a salad makes it more nutritious and appetising. For example, quinoa, nuts, seeds and avocado are incredibly nutritious.

"They increase the nutrient profile of a salad, and add unique flavours and textures," Chryssidis says.

"They make it a lot more appealing than the old garden salad of lettuce, tomato and cucumber.

"Include a variety of nutritious foods into the salad to make it completely nutritious, interesting, desirable and delicious."

After all, there’s no one food that we can live on that gives us all the nutrition we need, Chryssidis says.

"It's all about consuming a range and variety of foods, all with different nutrient profiles that in combination allow us to live a happy, healthy life."

Include all the colours of the rainbow 

Humans are visual creatures, and we eat with our eyes: a meal that looks visually appealing will be more appetising.

As well, different coloured fruits and vegetables have different nutrients, Chryssidis says.

"We always tell kids to ‘eat the rainbow’, and it holds true for adults through all phases of life too.

Eating a rainbow’ is important because the colour of a fruit and vegetable represents its nutrient profile and the antioxidants it contains," Chryssidis says.

"Consuming a range of different fruits and vegetables allows you to expose yourself to antioxidants and vitamins and minerals."

For example:

  • Orange fruits and vegetables contain the potent antioxidant beta carotene.
  • Bright red fruits and vegetables contain several antioxidants including lycopene, which helps reduce the risk of cancer.
  • Green vegetables are packed with nutrients such as folate and phytochemicals that have anti-cancer properties.
  • Purple and blue fruits and vegetables have anthocyanin, which protects cells from damage.
  • White fruits and vegetables such as garlic contain phytochemicals, known for its antiviral and antibacterial properties.

Add different textures

Adding lots of different textures to a meal is a great way of making a meal more interesting and appealing

And surprisingly, different textures in a meal will make us eat more slowly, Chryssidis says.

"If you mix up the texture, it slows down the rate that we consume, and we eat more mindfully."

Use seasonal vegetables and fruit (and spend less)

With many ingredients like superfoods costing a little more, balancing what’s good for our bodies and the household budget can be a challenge.

"At the end of the day, you've got to consider your nutrition bang for your buck,” says Chryssidis.

"In reality, seasonal fruits and vegetables have just as much nutrition as most of these other foods that are marketed as superfoods that have a higher price point."

Ignore the elitism and marketing around “superfoods”, which are usually far more expensive than more common and cheaper foods like oats and eggs.

Pack lots of vegetables into a salad, plus a lean meat and some healthy fats, Chryssidis says.

Add a tasty dressing

Adding a delicious salad dressing is a simple way to add flavour to a salad.

Not only that, it will make you less likely to snack later because you’ll be more likely to eat the whole salad, says Chryssidis.

"A delicious dressing is going to add a bit of nutrition, and it's also going to make sure you eat the entire salad and feel satisfied and full. You're then going to be less likely to eat a Mars bar at three o'clock in the afternoon."

Try an Asian-style salad dressing with fish sauce, brown sugar and lime juice. Or add a traditional European salad dressing with olive oil, lemon juice and mustard.

"The dressing adds flavour to the dish and brings out the natural flavours in all the other ingredients," Chryssidis says.

"No one wants to eat a salad of just iceberg lettuce and tomatoes that haven't been dressed with olive oil.

"It's about getting that combination right, and making it desirable, interesting and delicious. If someone fills up on a big bowl of salad with a range of different nutrients in it, that's a win."

Looking for some healthy salad inspiration? Then check out the Heart Foundation’s latest salad recipes for some great ways to spruce up your salad this summer, or read some salad ideas from the Dietitians Association of Australia.

Themis Chryssidis is an accredited practising dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia.

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