Squash and Salad
Salads seem to be the pinnacle of healthy eating for many people – they can be a great way to load up on veggies, cut back on calories, and feel light and clean. However, salads can also be pretty unsatisfying. My friend, who is trying to be healthier for her New Years Resolution, is famous for her complaint. “I had a salad for lunch, and I’ve been starving all day!” It is always disappointing when your $12 salad from the salad bar leaves you wanting more just an hour later! Salads that are too low in calories can be a bust for any dieter, since it will lead to unintentional and mindless snacking later. Salads can also be unassumingly high in calories as well! At many chain restaurants and fast food establishments, salads contain more than 600 calories, which is more than most dieters bargain for. If most of these calories are coming from salad dressing and low-protein, high fat toppings, hunger will strike more quickly as well. So how do you make a salad that will stick with you but not on you?
In order to make salad eating more sustainable, I have figured out a few tricks to help me stay full and satisfied throughout the afternoon. First of all, portion control does not apply when it comes to salad bases. I have polished off a whole head of Romaine lettuce in one sitting before! Salad bases can include more than just lettuce, too. I include other veggies, like broccoli, peppers, carrots, or spinach as part of my salad base. They are voluminous but not calorie-dense, so volume is not as important. Next comes the good stuff, the stick to your ribs in a healthy sort of way. Avocado, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit help add flavor, interest, and dimension to a salad. This makes it less boring, more satisfying, and more filling. Protein is also important, whether it is through beans, nuts, seeds, tofu, etc. My favorite salad topping is chickpeas! Last step is the dressing: I am not a fan of pre-made salad dressings since they tend to have a lot of added salt and sugar, and can often be laden with hidden chemicals. My stand-by dressing is Balsamic vinaigrette, but recently have enjoyed some unexpected oil-free combinations. Hummus and Balsamic vinegar can make an interesting creamy salad dressing, and nutritional yeast, Dijon mustard, almond milk and water make for an interesting cheesy dressing. Salad dressing and toppings can be the place where calorie counts creep up on salads, so portion control is more important here. However, using real ingredients to make your salad satisfying will help keep your body running well!
My recent and unexpected favorite salad add-on: roasted Kabocha squash. Kabocha squash, also called a Japanese pumpkin, is a sweet, orange squash that I have recently come to love. I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds, and then sliced it into squash fingers. After sprinkling these with chili powder, cumin and salt, I roasted them in a 350 degree oven for about a half hour. I sliced the squash from the rinds and then cubed it over a giant salad base of Romaine lettuce. I added some green peppers, carrots, chickpeas, and avocado. Topped off with the unexpected nutritional yeast-mustard dressing, I was in salad beast heaven. I actually made this dinner two nights in a row, it was that good! The squash that wasn’t added to my salad was enjoyed like sweet potato fries, dipped in a bit of BBQ sauce. I will definitely have to get another squash before the winter squash season is over!
Question: Are you a salad fan? What is your favorite salad combo?