Summer’s here and that means sunny days, weekend picnics, warm balmy evenings, beach, surf, sun... and salads!
- Lose weight – head for the salads
- Nutrition bonus
- The Rainbow Rule for antioxidants
- A fast meal for hot days
- How to create a salad in 3 easy steps
- Don’t skip the dressing
- Easy vinaigrette
Whether you create them as a main meal or just as an accompaniment, salads are the perfect way to eat on hot summer days. Your body benefits from the lighter fresher fare and there’s no extra heat from cooking in your kitchen. They’re perfect for easy casual entertaining or a quick hot weather stand-by.
Lose weight – head for the salads
Salads are ideal if you’re trying to lose weight. With their high fibre and water content, you can fill up with a huge plate and yet have eaten only 420 kilojoules (100 calories).
You get a big volume for few kilojoules – something dietitians call a low "kilojoule density" – which is the opposite of most junk food.
When you eat out, it’s a good idea to order a salad as a first course. Research shows that you’ll feel fuller and are less likely to overindulge at that meal.
These days, chefs are right into the gourmet salad trends with offerings such as rocket, pear and walnut salad, or a Vietnamese salad strong in mint and coriander or even a parsley, red onion and pomegranate
As you’d expect, salads add a health bonus to your nutritional intake as they are generally low in fat and kilojoules. They are rich in fibre and key vitamins including vitamin C, vitamin B1, B6 and folate (a B vitamin that can reduce the risk of birth defects) with smaller quantities of vitamins E and K.
There are plenty of essential minerals such as potassium (which helps counteract our high salt intake) and magnesium; and lesser quantities of zinc, calcium, iron and selenium.
Because most of the ingredients are eaten raw, heat-sensitive vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin B1 and folate are not affected so it maximises the nutritional value over cooked vegetables.
And salads help you get those recommended 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit each day.
The Rainbow Rule for antioxidants
Salads are a great way to ensure you get plenty of antioxidants – natural plant compounds that protect the body and slow the ageing process. For highest antioxidant value, use the "Rainbow Rule" and go for lots of colour, adding red tomatoes, bright carrots or capsicum, purple onion, fresh corn, beetroot and even fruit such as grapefruit or orange segments, melon or apples.
The pigments are usually antioxidants so “eating by the rainbow” maximises your intake.
With lettuces, the darker leaves are the best such as dark oak leaf, mignonette, purple radicchio, coral, baby spinach leaves or rocket. Fresh herbs are particularly rich in antioxidants so use basil, parsley, mint or coriander as often as you can.
A fast meal for hot days
When the temperature soars, a salad can quickly become a complete main meal by tossing in:
- a can of tuna or salmon
- cooked chicken pieces or cold lean meat strips
- a can of three-bean mix or chick peas, drained
- cheese like bocconcini, fetta, goats cheese or grated parmesan
- hard boiled eggs
and serving with grainy bread rolls or toasted Turkish bread.
How to create a salad in 3 easy steps
To build a delicious and interesting salad:
- Start off with a layer of lettuce. You can tear up a whole lettuce, or buy mixed leaves (mesclun) or a bag of washed and pre-packed leaves (check it’s fresh with no brown wilted leaves).
- Add interest with any of these healthy ingredients:
- tomatoes (vine-ripened, cherry, egg or yellow tear drop)
- grated or thinly-sliced carrot
- button mushrooms
- snow peas or sugar snap peas
- steamed green beans, asparagus or cauliflower
- chopped shallots or purple onions
- char-grilled sweet potato, eggplant, zucchini or other vegetables
- diced avocado
- fresh herbs like coriander, mint or basil
- Add protein from tuna, chicken, eggs or cold meats. Or barbecued chicken or lamb fillets sliced and served hot over the salad.
- Just before serving, drizzle over the dressing.
Don’t skip the dressing
Salad dressings may not seem like much but they pack a powerful punch for good nutrition. And they make a salad taste so much better which means you enjoy it more!
There’s no need to buy no-oil dressings even if you’re watching your weight. Just a splash of oil with lemon juice is all you need, just enough to moisten the ingredients. Don’t drown the salad in it!
The small quantity of oil they provide – from extra-virgin olive oil, canola oil or walnut oil - is not heated. This means that salad dressing is the best way to consume those “healthy” unsaturated fats and vitamin E. The fat from the oil, the fat-soluble vitamins and antioxidants are bioavailable – which means that that they enable you to absorb a lot more nutrients such as beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene from raw foods.
The acidity of a dressing from lemon juice or vinegar is important too. It slows down the rate of digestion which leaves you feeling fuller for longer, a big help to dieters.
Make your own dressing, it’s quick and economical. Best of all, you get a quality oil and you don’t get the extra salt and additives from commercial salad dressings. Here’s how:
In a screw top jar, measure out:
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or use white or red wine vinegar)
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- plus a few grinds of black pepper.
Shake well until mixed, drizzle over your salad, toss and serve.
Makes enough for a salad for 4 or 6 people.
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