You don’t need leaves to make salad

salmonsalad1Greens can be a lot of work.

Many years ago, while traveling through a far-away state, we stopped at a restaurant with a salad bar.  Here’s what was on the salad bar:

  • Jello with marshmallows
  • mac and cheese
  • fuzzy cauliflower pieces
  • a bowl of whipped topping

That’s it.  True story.  Which got me thinking: Wow!  Some people have a different concept of what “salad” means.

For me, salad always started with green leaves.  Iceberg lettuce is the classic mid-20th Century salad ingredient.  Sometimes the only ingredient.  Now we have all kinds of variety in green leaves: spinach, Romaine, leaf, red leaf, arugula, baby greens, spring mix, and on and on.  Greens are great.  But sometimes they get in the way of eating salad.  And that’s a shame, from a health point of view.

Let me explain.  Greens are a lot of work.  You buy a head of lettuce or bunch of spinach and take it home, dreaming of salad.  When it’s time to make your salad, you have to wash, trim and sort all those leaves, drying the usable ones and throwing away the limp leaves with brown edges.  Then you make the salad, toss it with dressing and serve.  It doesn’t all get eaten.  Leaves with dressing don’t keep well.  You throw out the leftovers.

You could go for convenience and buy pre-washed greens, but they’re really expensive.  If you don’t use them up in a timely fashion, they become expensive compost.  Lot of people would think twice about making salad at that point.  Solution: lose the greens.

There is no rule that salad has to contain green leaves.  Fruit salad doesn’t have green leaves, and people seem OK with that.  So if you’d like to eat more healthy vegetables, but need a break from leaves, make chunky veggie salads.  Pick two or more vegetables, chop them up (or buy pre-chopped), toss with dressing and serve.

Some other good points about this salad strategy:

  1. You can make a meal of it by adding a high protein food like grated cheese, smoked salmon, canned tuna, chunks of feta or fresh mozzarella, or cooked chicken.
  2. Beans go really well with chunky vegetable mixes.  Canned beans are really easy.  Just drain, rinse and put them in the salad.  Garbanzo, black and white kidney beans work especially well for this.
  3. Leftovers don’t go limp and soggy.  The flavor of your leftover vegetable salad might actually improve.
  4. Chunky vegetables are filling and can help you cut calories.
  5. Many of these vegetables keep longer than leaves in your frig, so there’s less waste.

So if the idea of dealing with greens is a salad deal-killer, re-think your salads.  If the end result is more vegetables in your life, it’s a great plan.

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