‘Tis the season of salads. And we all know why.
We are trying to compensate for the too-tight yoga pants that are now in the rolled-over-the-tummy position.
Or, we’ve decided our work wardrobe should include lots of long sweaters that cover ... lots of excess holiday eating.
Salads are the go-to meal when we feel the need to eat better. You can eat them on the run; you can throw one together with leftovers in the fridge; you can make them ahead of time.
But, you can get real tired of eating a lot of greens, even if kale and spinach and arugala and frisee and Boston Bibb are good for you.
So, instead, why not try these five salad recipes that don’t focus primarily on greens. Yes, they may be the base on some, but there’s turkey, steak and pork here, too, as well as noodles, rice and homemade tortilla strips. It’s enough food to make you feel full and possibly continue down that road to healthy living.
What not to put in your salad
There are pitfalls to eating salad. Stand at a supermarket salad bar and while you’ll see lots of healthy choices, you’ll also find these little extras that add up to big extras in the calorie and fat department.
The biggest no-no’s to avoid no matter where you eat? Here’s a short list from exercise guru and health advocate Jillian Michaels:
- Croutons — Croutons are an easy way to ruin your salad by adding refined carbohydrates. Croutons from a popular brand are about 30 calories for just six pieces. Do most people put only six croutons on their salad? Not likely. These toppings can also have high sodium levels depending on how they’re prepared.
- Healthy Alternative: Bread isn’t bad if you’re eating 100 percent whole-wheat. You can definitely get bread or a roll to accompany your salad, but keep it healthy and put it down when you’re full.
- Creamy dressings — These are probably the worst dressings you can choose. Take ranch dressing: one serving of two tablespoons has 140 calories — and 130 of those calories are from fat. Other dressings like blue cheese, Caesar, Parmesan, or chipotle all fall under this category of dressings to avoid. Not only are they loaded with fat, but they also have high levels of sodium and very little nutritional value.
- Healthy Alternative: Stick to vinaigrettes, though even some of these can be high in sodium levels, too. Jillian instead suggests using a small amount of extra-virgin olive oil with balsamic vinaigrette. If you don’t want to give up your beloved ranch dressing, just drizzle a small amount over your salad or have a taste of it to suppress your craving. You could also use this old dieting trick: Dip the tip of your fork into the dressing before you put it in the salad to get just enough taste with each bite without drowning it in dressing.
- Glazed nuts — Stick to dry-roasted, and just an ounce. That glaze is pure sugar.
- Cheese — Yes, dairy is good for you, but when you’re making a salad, it’s easy to pile it on. Try feta because it’s lower in fat and calories than most other cheeses. Another idea is to buy string cheese (part-skim mozzarella) sticks and add one to your salad by cutting it up into pieces, which will also help you practice portion control.
- Dried fruit — Craisins, or dried cranberries, are a fruit, so that means they’re good for you, right? Well, not exactly. Craisins and their cousin, raisins, are called “nature’s candy” for a reason: Though they are fat-free and relatively low-calorie at 130 for a 1/4 cup — they’re full of sugar — 29 grams to be exact.
- Healthy Alternative: If you can’t give ‘em up, count them out and only add 10 or so to your salad. Otherwise, why not add other seasonal fresh fruits to sweeten up your salads, such as strawberries or blueberries?
Turkey Clubhouse Salad
1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
1/3 cup light mayonnaise
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
6 slices purchased precooked bacon or 1/4 cup real bacon pieces
1 (10-ounce) package chopped romaine lettuce (about 9 cups)
1 1/2 cups cubed cooked turkey breast, about 1/2 pound
2 medium tomatoes, cut into thin wedges
In small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients; mix well. Set aside.
If using bacon slices, heat as directed on package until crisp. Drain on paper towels; crumble.
In large bowl, combine lettuce and turkey. Pour dressing over salad; toss gently to coat. Arrange salad on serving platter. Arrange tomatoes and bacon over top.
Yield: 6 servings.
Per serving: 165 calories, 9 grams fat, 140 mg cholesterol, 430 mg sodium, 7 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 4 grams sugar, 14 grams protein.
Tips: If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, replace it with 1 teaspoon vinegar mixed with 1/3 cup milk.
Ask for thick slices of turkey breast at the deli, then cube them at home. Or use leftover turkey breast that you have on-hand.
Skinny Southwestern Salad
Going to a party and want something to nibble on? Try this salad, which has 58 less less saturated fat and half the cholesterol than the original recipe. This fiesta in a bowl is perfect for a potluck — add the dressing and tortilla strips just before serving.
6-inch corn tortillas
Nonstick cooking spray
1 box (9 oz) frozen corn
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/4 cup snipped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fat-free milk
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lime peel
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
6 cups torn romaine lettuce
4 plum tomatoes, chopped (2 cups)
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese (2 ounces)
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and chopped
Snipped fresh cilantro (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut tortillas into 1/2-inch-wide strips; place in a 15-by-10-by-1-inch baking pan. Coat tortillas lightly with cooking spray. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or just until crisp, stirring once. Cool on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, prepare corn according to package directions. Cool.
For dressing: In a small bowl, stir together sour cream, 1/4 cup cilantro, milk, oil, garlic, chili powder, lime peel, salt and pepper.
Place lettuce in a large glass serving bowl. Top with tomatoes, beans, cooled corn, cheese and avocado. Add dressing and sprinkle with tortilla strips. If desired, garnish with additional cilantro.
Yield: 6 servings.
Per 2 cups: 220 calories, 7 grams fat, 110 mg cholesterol, 400 mg sodium, 29 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 5 grams sugar, 9 grams protein.
Exchanges: 1 1/2 starch, 1 vegetable, 1/2 very lean meat, 1 fat. Carbohydrate Choice: 2.
Beef-Soba Noodle Salad
Soba noodles are Japanese noodles that are made from buckwheat flour. The thickness of the noodles is easily comparable to that of spaghetti, and they can be served both hot or cold. Their nutty flavor works well as a base for stir-fries and salads. Each cup of cooked noodles contains only 113 calories, while white spaghetti has 220 calories per cup and the whole-wheat version contains 174 calories. Look for them in the supermarket aisle with Asian foods.
8 ounces soba noodles
2 tablespoons peanut oil
4 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 beef strip steak, about 8 ounces, cut into strips
2 tablespoons each soy sauce and hoisin sauce
16 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 pound snow peas
2 tablespoons chopped basil
Cook noodles according to package directions; drain.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium. Add green onions, garlic and ginger; cook until fragrant.
Add steak; cook, about 4 minutes. Add soy sauce and hoisin sauce, tomatoes and snow peas; cook, stirring, until vegetables soften.
Remove from heat; stir in basil. Toss mixture with noodles. Serve warm or cold over salad greens.
Yield: 4 servings.
Rice Salad with Avocado
3 cups cooked white, basmati or jasmine rice
2 cups grape tomatoes or 1 cup sliced fresh red or roasted peppers
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
4 green onions, washed, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 large ripe avocado, halved, pitted, diced large
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons favorite chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 clove garlic, peeled
In a large bowl combine the cooked rice, grape tomatoes/red peppers, bell pepper, green onions and cilantro leaves. Add the avocado chunks and toss gently, taking care not to break up the avocado. Season with salt and pepper.
In a blender or food processor, combine all the dressing ingredients and process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Pour over the salad and toss to combine. Serve immediately or refrigerate. This salad will keep in the refrigerator about 2 days without the avocados turning dark if it’s covered tightly, with plastic wrap directly on it.
Yield: 5 cups.
Per 1/2 cup: 153 calories, 9 grams fat, 16 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 68 mg sodium, 2 grams fiber.
Susan Selasky, Detroit Free Press Test Kitchen
Thai Pork and Cucumber Salad
1 cucumber, not peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1/2 medium red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 to 1 red or green hot Thai chili pepper or serrano pepper, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
Pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil, divided
1 pound boneless pork loin, cut into very thin strips, about 2-by-1/8-inch
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups thinly sliced romaine or bok choy
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
Place cucumber and red bell pepper strips in a small bowl.
Combine lime juice, minced chili, soy sauce and pepper in a small bowl. Spoon 2 tablespoons of lime mixture over cucumbers. Toss and set aside.
Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add meat and cook, stirring frequently, until meat is browned, about 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 30 seconds. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the lime juice mixture and cook, stirring frequently, about 30 seconds or until meat is fully cooked.
Place romaine or bok choy in a deep serving platter. Spoon cucumber mixture, with any collected liquid, over greens. Top with cooked pork.
Whisk remaining 1 teaspoon oil into remaining lime juice mixture. Drizzle lime juice mixture over meat and cucumbers. Garnish with cilantro.
Yield: 4 servings.
Per serving: 191 calories, 6 grams total fat, 74 mg cholesterol, 8 grams carbohydrates, 26 grams protein, 215 mg sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.