Daily Greens: 5 Things Your Salad is Missing

I’ve gotta level with you.  I love salads.  I love them every day, and I love them every way.  I know that some people have trouble choking down their greens, but I think there is a salad lover in all of us- you just need to get the necessities covered.  I could probably write an entire blog about my daily veggie parties, but I’ll try to keep it concise.  Salad is my go-to when I hear the Pot Luck call to action and, to toot my own horn, I have yet to disappoint….I get it from my mama (really though).  So the next time you find yourself needing some good nutrients, try sprucing it up a little with my fool-proof plan!

1.  Find some quality greens

The stronger, the better.  I like arugula, kale, and power greens the best.  If in doubt, I choose the locally grown variety because they tend to bring their own pizzazz to the table.  When I was younger, I was a purely iceberg lettuce kind of gal but I’m telling you- ditch it!  We’re going to spice it up later, so even if you don’t typically die for Kale, give it a try.  Maybe even throw some shredded Brussels Sprouts in…hey, it’s your party.

2. This Salad is an Equal-Opportunity Employer

Fruits!  Nuts!  Roots!  Seeds!  Everyone is welcome in my salad bowl.  My favorite?  Without going crazy, I love to incorporate a good, bright fruit (think pomegranate, raspberries, pears, or grapefruit) and a solid root vegetable (roasted beets, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, etc).  Add some pepitas or sliced almonds for crunch.

3. Make it a Meal

Salad doesn’t want to be on the sidelines.  Salad can pack enough protein, fats, and nutrients to keep you energized without bogging you down….if you add the right fixins.  I prefer to keep it meatless by slicing up a healthy dose of avocado or a scoop of quinoa.  In my non-vegan days, I used to beef this veggie deal up with goat cheese and bacon…but I didn’t say that….

4. DIY Dressings

This is a MUST.  Most store-bought, prepackaged salad dressings are the silent killers of all things delightful in the garden world.  Splurge on some good oils, fresh herbs, and a citrus fruit of your choosing.  Think Italian!  Parsley, Basil, and Thyme are an excellent trio (and you can often find them all together in one pack!), Himalayan Sea Salt, fresh cracked pepper, red pepper flakes, and my all-time best kept secret ingredient: Garlic.  Lots and lots of garlic.  This part may take a bit of trial and error, but I always start out with approximately equal parts of each (except salt- go slowly with her because you cannot unsalt a salad), squeezing the citrus in as I go.  I usually end up needing more garlic than anything else, but eventually you will find your own finesse.  Put it all in the bowl right on top of the goods, douse it with oil, and shake that thang!  I prefer to let it sit in the fridge for a little bit so that all the flavors have time to mingle.  (Again, for the non vegan saladpreneur, this is an excellent place for some fresh grated parmesean).

5.  Share it!

It’s nearly impossible to know how well you’ve done until you’ve shared it with good company and conversation.  My mother has been making this salad for decades, and she’ll be the first to tell you that the most important thing to keep in mind is Keep it Fresh.  Vegetables that have grown up in a good atmosphere are much more likely to lend their uniquely delish flavor to your pallet, so go ahead and be picky!  Your dinner party patrons (and your body!) will thank you.

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Expert tip: Experiment with new vehicles for your salad…Forks and spoons are so last season. Here we have a stuffed raw pepper!

Healthy Eating 101: Go With Your Gut

Being healthy is easy.  Any simple Google search will tell you that.  Get Fit Quick!  Eat this to lose that in two days!  This Secret Food is making you Fat!  Sound familiar?  As a society we have been through countless fitness and diet fads and we just love the idea of a quick “fix.”  I have been suckered into almost every trend imaginable and if I have learned anything, it is that knowledge is key.  Not just knowing what foods are ‘Good’ and ‘Bad,’ but knowing how my body feels and what works for me– physically and mentally. Disclaimer:  Just to clarify, I am not on a diet, but my diet is very mindfully crafted. If you take anything away from this post, I hope it is the conscious decision to stop using the word Diet as a verb.  Let’s stop dieting together!  

Growing up, I was like any other body-conscious teenager (and by body-conscious teenager, of course I mean that I had an insanely warped idea of what bodies should look like…).  I was active and aware of the necessity of healthy eating, but I was all about that calorie counting game.  “Diet” and “Low Fat” and “100-Calorie” portions of processed, sugary foods were my go-to and after taking painstaking care to consume 1200 or less calories per day, I just could not comprehend why I wasn’t the pencil thin version of myself that I wanted so badly.  A lot has changed since then, especially the image that comes to mind when I say “healthy”… but that is a subject for another post.  For me, the most important health tip is that it all starts in your gut; You’ve got to fuel the machine with goodness!

With all of the health trends out there it can be difficult to even know what ‘good for you’ is.  Eat this, not that….avoid that and do this every day.  It is exhausting to try to keep up with the never ending stream of information.  My approach has always been experimental, and the biggest take away has been that I need to listen to my body.  In the last year I have tried a few extremes, including a rigorous Atkins-style plan, multiple variations of the Paleo Diet, Vegetarianism…even a brief period of strict Veganism…and I finally landed on a full-fat, meat-filled regimen that works for me.  I loved a lot of aspects of each food philosophy, but ultimately it comes down to understanding how I react to different foods.  For example, I really loved my stint as a Vegan, but it wasn’t practical with my lifestyle- I didn’t have time to cook every meal and the lazier I got, the more carbs came out and I stopped feeling so energetic.  The lesson learned?  Simple: I can be full without eating a huge slab of meat for every meal.  Fast forward to my current eating habits: a high-fat philosophy that would make my 14-year-old self want to jump off a cliff.  I start each day with a steamy cup of coffee…complete with a chunk of grass-fed butter and a scoonch of coconut oil to really rev the engine.  Lunch is usually (reluctantly) a rushed part of my commute so it has to be accessible and efficient;  I like to chop up an avocado with a few hard-boiled eggs and whatever veggies are available (spinach and tomato?  Ohh yeahhh), and of course, a healthy dose of a good oil.  Dinner is always different, and I like that!  I like to include as much variation as possible whilst following a few simple guidelines:  include lots of color, get a clean protein source, eat as close to the sources as possible and knock out as many carbs and sugars as you can stand to lose.

As someone who is cursed to live in constant fear of being hungry, I always keep some sort of easy, healthy snack on hand.  However, I noticed that since I’ve upped my intake in the good fats department (and cleansed my cabinets of sugars and carbs) I rarely reach for the snack.  I eat as much as I want until I feel satisfied, and it keeps me full longer.  This may not be the ideal regimen for everyone, but it works for me.  Even though I was petrified to try it and had to defend my choices the whole way (repeat it with me:  I am NOT a Fad Dieter!), ultimately experimenting with foods has helped me find my easy ‘fix.’  I get to eat delicious food, I have fun experimenting in the kitchen, and I feel amazing.  If that isn’t a success story, I don’t know what is!  Stay tuned for some specific recipes!