New Castle News

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April 25, 2013

Lori Brothers: Change your definition of a salad

NEW CASTLE — Lately, I have been changing my perception of salad, what it “can be” versus what a salad “should be.”

At first you may judge that I am thinking too deeply about something as simple as a salad.

Traditionally, a salad has lettuce as the base and then whatever you put on it as the “toppings,” such as olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, croutons. We often think of including a salad when setting goals to add veggies and cut fat out of our diet at lunch or dinner.

Sometimes, I’m just not in the mood to eat lettuce. That’s when it hit me while I was near the Jameson Hospital salad bar one day. Why don’t I just skip the lettuce and get the other things I like? Shredded red cabbage and carrots with water chestnuts and chick peas, then a splash of fat-free Italian dressing was one on the combinations I made at the salad bar.

Sometimes I make raw broccoli and cauliflower my base, then add beets, hard boiled eggs and banana peppers with a splash of red wine vinegar. Consider carrot, celery, cucumber, radishes and tomato.

When you have access to a salad bar, the combinations can be varied. You might consider using the lettuce as the topper now and then, instead of the main event. I especially like the fancier, more delicate lettuce varieties such as baby romaine, arugala, curly endive and frisee.

The only caution when visiting the salad bar is to stay away from high fat dressings, potato salad or macaroni salad. This would land a bomb on your healthy choice strategy.

This is a fresh jump-start to the commitment to eating fresher foods to lose weight, or eat healthier. Because, let’s face it, sometimes the idea of salads can begin to get stale. That’s why I’m suggesting that you expand your idea of what a salad can be so you don’t get bored.

It is important to make sure you still get a range of food groups when you are including salads as a mainstay in your meal plan. Make sure you still get some protein in there. Any of the beans are great to throw in, such as black beans, kidney beans, chick peas. Usually there is at least one of these available at a salad bar. Or hard boiled eggs or tuna can also amp up your protein intake which will make you feel more satisfied.

Diced chicken or turkey is a better choice if you’re including animal protein on your salad. Ham or lunchmeats, like salami, can add a lot of salt. Go light on the cheese.

I am noticing that I might not be the only one in this trend of building colorful, awesome salads. The sea of freshness, better known as the Giant Eagle Salad Bar, offers all of the varieties and colors to really lift salad building to a new level. It’s very inspiring!  It gives a new meaning to “Super Size.”  To me, it signifies this salad building trend must be in demand.   

You can also find grain salads like couscous and quinoa to accompany your veggies. And don’t forget the fruit. It can add a splash of flavor.

It is worth the trip to stop in and build your salad creation. You have valuable access to the fresh healthy choices that you may not have at home in that kind of abundance. If our only choice is to finish up the left-over salad fixins in the crisper drawer we might just say “no.”  Boredom can breed rebellion, but with all that fresh flavor and color, you are sure to stay on the healthy path.

When you make your “salad combination” the focal point of your meal, you can make your pasta, potatoes, chicken, etc. the “side dish.”  Use a smaller plate for your sides to manage portion control. Make sure your sides are truly sides, and make your salad the fresh, abundant and nutritious star of your meal.

If you have digestive issues when eating too many raw veggies, it is OK to lightly steam and chill them. Then eat them with a little fat-free salad dressing for a fresh change!

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