Popular folklore dates the invention of the humble Caesar salad to the early 1920s. Approximately 90 years later, it’s time for you to move beyond this salad bar staple. Swap out the romaine lettuce for some exotic greens, throw in a few out-of-the-norm toppings — croutons are the definition of salad drudgery — and show the vegetable world who’s boss.
Start with anything but lettuce. There’s nothing wrong with lettuce, which can be a rich source of vitamins — two cups of romaine lettuce provides more than 150% of your RDA for vitamin A — and fiber. But non-traditional greens can add yet another layer of flavor complexities and nutrients. For example, you could try:
- Spinach, which is high in calcium
- Shepherd’s purse, a member of the cruciferous family that’s high in carotenoids and glucosinolates
- Purslane, a source of more healthy omega-3 fats compared to every other leafy vegetable
- Dandelion greens, which are endorsed by French chefs for their unique flavor but also boast high levels of electrolytes like potassium
Add some heavy proteins. This, combined with the fiber in the greens, turns your salad into a legit meal that keeps you feeling full and happy for a long time. For carnivores, choose lean meats such as tuna, sirloin steak or chicken breasts. For plant lovers, try dicing up some marinated tofu or adding a can or two of your favorite beans.
Toss out those fancy and fattening bottled salad dressings. A single two tablespoon serving of your average ranch dressing can often net you 300 to 500 calories — and many people douse their salads with more than just a couple tablespoons. Instead, mix a lightweight homemade dressing using healthy ingredients like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard or lemon juice, and herbs such as oregano, pepper and basil. Too much trouble? A second-best option: Lighten your commercial salad dressing by blending the dressing with an equal amount of olive oil.
Add color — as much as you can manage. Chase a rainbow of colors harder than a unicorn at a rave. In general, foods that are colorful are richer in phytonutrients that have a litany of health benefits, such as fighting cancer. Example options include yellow bell peppers, red onions, radishes and beets.
Go nutty. Nuts add crunch and new textures to your salad while also boosting its fiber and protein quotient. Even better, nuts are a top source of heart-healthy fatty acids. For even more flavors, roast them before tossing them into your salad.
Sprinkle on the seeds. Hemp seeds and flax seeds are optimal sources of protein, add a layer of visual interest and also increase your intake of fiber and omega-3s.