Salads are simply the bomb, and you can’t make a sustainable plant-based eating game-plan without salad essentials on hand. Salads are one of my favorite ways to get a ridiculously nutrient dense meal in my day (even better if I can have 2 a day), but sometimes it’s hard trying to figure out how to add variety to my salad game.
Sometimes I find myself looking at my bunch of kale and wondering what the heck I’m going to mix it with. To solve this problem, I created a list of my favorite salad essentials to keep our creative salad making skills sharp.
Salad Essentials You Need For Optimal Nutrition
1: Start with greens: Obviously you can’t have salad essentials without the leafy greens. My go-to’s are spinach, arugula, and dino kale.
2: Bulk it Up with vegetables: You can go wild here. I add between 3-4 additional vegetables to my salad concoctions not only to load up on vitamins and minerals, but to provide a wonderful crunch for my salad. My essential veggie list: cucumber, purple cabbage, jicama, saurkraut, carrots, onions, artichoke hearts, beets, mushrooms, red pepper,
3: Sweeten it up with fruit: Sometimes when I have sugar cravings, I make a simple salad of spinach, strawberries, sunflower seeds and feta cheese (I try not to eat dairy but this group of ingredients just owns my heart). Adding sweetness to salads gives it great variety so that you don’t feel like your eating grass all-the-dang-time. My faves: mango, strawberry, raspberry, apples and blueberries.
4: Get nutty: Often times I try to leave nuts and seeds out of salads if I’m including ingredients that are high in calories like avocado and beans. But let’s be honest, we typically can’t have a salad without some type of seed. I find that the following adds great texture to my recipes: sunflower seeds, pecans, walnuts, and hemp seeds.
5: Power up with protein: We can’t have a well rounded meal without protein. Most of our readers know I eat primarily plant-based, but I’m also going to include a couple animal sources of protein in our salad essentials list for those of us that don’t have a label on their eating habits. My #1 favorite source of plant-based protein is beans! I like using: Chickpea, blackbean, kidney bean, green or red lentils, bean sprouts in my salads. I make sure to rinse and soak them for a while to make them a bit more easily digestible and to ensure that the sodium is washed off.
If your’e feeling like eating animal proteins, I like using: hard boiled eggs, tuna, chicken, and smoked or chilled salmon. Another protein that doesn’t really fall into the bean category that I love is Tempeh (which I talk about here and here).
6: Top if off with dressings: Save on calories and sodium build up by making your own dressings. You can be totally creative with salad dressings as well. One ingredient that I love whipping up with lemon and capers is avocado – it makes a beautiful creamy dressing that is packed with healthy fats. I also like dicing up avocado and throwing it in with my salads too – so you have your options. Other basic dressing ingredients: balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, nutritional yeast and lemon juice. If you need some dressing inspiration, you can see some of my recipes here!