You might think this is boring, but I love salads in the summer. Sure I am a Health Coach, and you would assume that I love all things healthy. However, my family would tell you I have a deep love for Cool Ranch Doritos and Crunchy Cheetos. In fact, a few days ago, Mary and I took a date day and went out to the lake to enjoy these treats on the dock. It was a special moment for this mom!
Back to the salads. As soon as the warm weather arrives, I crave a fresh pile of greens and toppings. Over the years, I have learned there are so many ways to spice up a simple salad and save a ton of time in the kitchen, leaving you more time to play outside with your family. Even better, most of the simple ingredients you use, can be plated for kids (or salad hating adults) to enjoy as their meal.
Grab a few ingredients, and you can easily switch things up throughout the week for a different dinner every night. You can also throw leftovers together for lunch the next day.
It’s all about the base. These days, there are so many types of pre-washed greens. You can buy these by the bag or container. You can also buy salad kits. I discovered last year that my 2 year old loved Caesar Salad kits and now she loves the kale and Brussels sprout with poppyseed dressing. The cool thing about kits is that you can use the fixings, or skip their dressing and add your own favorites. I personally love the kale kit, but usually just use the greens and then make my own creation.
Veggies are great, but think beyond the produce section. Sure, cucumbers, peppers, radishes, and carrots are great. But don’t forget about canned and frozen veggies. Canned black beans, corn, and chickpeas can easily be rinsed and thrown into the mix. They are also budget friendly!
Frozen veggies are picked at their ripest and flash frozen. You can often find them in steam packets that go directly into the microwave. Warm them up and then pop some onto your plate.
It’s okay to add a touch of carbs to the mix. One of my favorite meals is the Caesar salad from a place called The Noodle. As you might guess, they are known for their homemade fresh pasta and even the salad comes topped with noodles. It is a delicious addition.
Orzo is easy to make and let cool off in a colander. Rice packets are another great addition. Toast some day old bread and break into croutons.
You can always add dairy. Add this for some extra flavor and protein. There are so many delicious options from shredded cheddar and parmesan, to bleu cheese, feta, and crumbled goat cheese.
Maybe you protein. Maybe you don’t. I do love meat, but I have been making a conscious effort to eat more plant based meals. By adding a bunch of other flavors and textures to my plate, I don’t always need meat. But when I do, I sometimes think beyond the traditional chicken, steak, or salmon. You can find tuna packets, which are a lower calorie protein with high Omega 3 healthy fats.
Morning Star farms offers traditional black bean and Mediterranean chickpea burgers. I also really like their veggie “chicken” patties. Boca Burgers have a surprisingly great texture and taste pretty darn similar to a regular burger.
Deconstruct your salad and please even the pickiest eaters. Before I go further, I urge you not to underestimate your kids. I never thought my oldest would love Caesar salads at 2 years old. I didn’t know my one year old would beg for bites of cabbage. Try adding a small salad to a plate. Don’t make a big deal about it. Don’t refer to it as “healthy.” Just make it part of the meal. If they decide they don’t like it, no big deal.
Whatever “tools” you use to build your salad, plate them out on your kids’ dishes. For example, if you decide to make a Mexican salad, add cheese, beans, meat, and peppers to your little ones’ plates. Add some dip or salsa and a tortilla. Let them roll theirs into a taco or burrito.
What I love about this approach is that you are never eating a salad while the rest of your family eats something different. This isn’t about healthy vs. unhealthy or one person eating healthy while others are eating a different dinner. You are eating together as a family. When you put together ingredients for the week, you can easily whip up a meal in minutes for everyone.
What is your favorite way to eat a salad?