Spring Into Salads!
Do your salads need a makeover? Go beyond your usual fare and perk up your salads with these creative and healthy additions.

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image of salad Spring Into Salads!

Do your salads need a makeover? Spring is the perfect time for a salad tune-up. Warmer weather often brings cravings for lighter foods, as salads replace steaming bowls of soups and stews.

Carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers and celery are wonderful standards. But try exploring beyond your usual fare to keep your salads fresh and appealing.

Adding pizzazz
Start by trying to maximize the colors in your salad. It's well known that powerful nutrients are packed inside richly colored fruits and veggies. Look to have several colors of the rainbow represented, such as:

  • Red beets, tomatoes and peppers
  • Purple cabbage
  • Orange carrots and peppers
  • Yellow peppers, squash and tomatoes
  • Green snap peas and spinach

Then, avoid the same old, same old with some of these tasty additions to your greens:

Artichoke hearts have a surprising amount of fiber. Buy them canned or jarred, either plain or in a marinade.

Avocado is a wonderful source of healthy monounsaturated fat and fiber.

Bagged shredded cabbage and/or broccoli are loaded with fiber and other vitamins and make an easy addition to any salad. They can also stand on their own with a nice vinaigrette.

Beans such as chickpeas, black, kidney or pinto are a simple and nutritious way to up the protein and fiber content of your salad.

Beets are a good source of many vitamins. They are deliciously sweet and can be added raw or cooked to any salad. Use canned or jarred for convenience.

Cooked leftover veggies like cauliflower, string beans and zucchini are great to throw into green or grain salads.

Fresh herbs such as basil, mint, parsley and chives can quickly liven up any bland salad, as can red onions and shallots.

Fresh fruit can be paired with greens for a real upscale treat. Try salads with apples, pears, strawberries or oranges in a light vinaigrette.

Dried fruits like raisins and craisins lend a sweetness and chewy texture to salads. Low in fat, but high in calories, just a small handful should do the trick. Figs or dried apricots can be used in moderation as well.

Grains can be added to salads or can stand alone as the main focus. Quinoa, brown or wild rice and barley are whole grains that can be combined with veggies for a wholesome hearty salad.

Jicama is a crisp, sweet root vegetable that can be used raw in salads or as crudités. Also called a Mexican turnip, it adds crunch, fiber and a host of vitamins.

Darker green lettuce or spinach goes way beyond iceberg, which has the least vitamins of all the lettuce types. Color your plate with Boston, romaine, arugula, endive or red leaf.

Nuts and seeds are heart-smart and rich in healthy fats and protein. A tablespoon or two of walnuts, slivered almonds or sunflower seeds can add nutritious crunch and flavor to salads.

Olives are also a source of healthy fats that can make a fun salad addition. Try them black or green, whole or sliced. They are high in sodium, so limit portions.

Sprouts are loaded with vitamins and minerals and add a crunchy, varied texture to salads. Buy pre-made or "sprout" your own from grains, seeds or beans.

Sun-dried tomatoes give a gourmet touch and a burst of flavor.

Water chestnuts are rich in vitamins and minerals, low in fat and have a sweet nutty flavor. Buy them canned and sliced for convenience.

Experts suggest that fruits and vegetables take a leading role in your diet. Varying your salads will help to keep you coming back for more. Just avoid slathering greens with fatty dressings. Vinaigrettes with olive oil, lemon juice or vinegar, garlic and a touch of salt and pepper are simple, delicious and nutritious.

By Jane Schwartz Harrison, RD, Contributing Nutritionist
Created on 03/26/2009
Updated on 06/08/2012
Copyright © OptumHealth.
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