Winter. I often find myself hibernating and only wanting to eat warm comfort foods. The problem is these comfort foods can really start to add up calorie-wise in the long run. Needless to say, I need to change it up sometimes and eat a little lighter. Enter citrus-based salads. They’re a go-to for a quick, healthy alternative to brighten up your winter menus.
Eating lighter isn’t always easy, particularly in the dead of a Michigan winter. Citrus and hearty greens are a great place to start. Since I started massaging kale (see arugula salad post for instructions), I’ve come to love using it in salads in the winter. Dark leafy greens are also a great source of iron, potassium, iron, vitamins A, C, K, and B6. Long story short, it’s jam-packed with nutritional benefits…often denoted as a “superfood”. Then there’s that creamy avocado – which is not far behind on the nutrition “superfood” totem pole. I have very sensitive, dry skin that takes some looking after when it’s cold and dry out. Therefore, I need muh healthy fats (monounsaturated to be exact) and avocado is my bitch.
The combination of the tartness of grapefruit, creamy avocado, and nutty Parmesan is a home run. Top with toasted pumpkin seeds or pair with chicken for an entree. Delicious.
1poundkale, de-stemmed, washed, and cut into 1-2” bite-sized leaves
2avocados, pitted and sliced
2-3ozParmesan cheese, shaved
Walnut Maple Dressing (adapted from keyingredient.com)
1/2cuppure maple syrup
4Tbspextra virgin olive oil
1tspground dry mustard
For the dressing, combine all ingredients except the oil in a food processor. Blend until well combined and walnuts are pureed. Pour olive oil in food processor (while running) in a slow steady stream through the feed tube. Add water as needed to thin the dressing to your desired consistency. Transfer to a jar or airtight container and refrigerate.
Chop, wash, and allow kale to dry. Once dried, toss the kale with 1-2 tablespoons of the maple walnut dressing. Serve with the grapefruit, avocado, and Parmesan cheese.
*This salad can also be served with a balsamic vinaigrette or dressing of your choice.
This dish is like a healthier version of what I enjoy most on Thanksgiving…stuffing! Maybe it’s the quinoa providing less refined carbs and more protein. Or maybe it’s the flavor explosion of sweet dried cranberries, savory cumin, and tart apples with peppery arugula. I don’t really know but I’m telling you it works.
The beauty of this dish is that it works literally any time of the year. I love meal prepping this in the winter for my lunches or using this as a bangin’ fresh side dish paired with grilled chicken in the summer. When a dish brings together greens, whole grains, fruits, and seeds AND taste great, I get all the nutrition feels 🙂
I’m a huge fan of massaging greens that tend to be on the ‘weedy’ side (i.e. arugula, kale, mizuna, Swiss chard). If you haven’t massaged some greens by now, it’s time to get onboard. It changed my world when it comes to enjoying leafy greens outside of the classic, but rather tasteless, romaine. Here’s how to do it…
Massaging Greens 101
Take said leafy green and place in medium-sized mixing bowl (here I use kale).
Pour your vinaigrette on the greens. Hell, I usually just pour about 1 tbsp of evoo and 1 tbsp of acidity (lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic, etc.) to get my started and adjust from there based on flavor.
Massage the greens with your hands for about 1-2 minutes or until they turn a beautiful deep green color.
I find this really helps soften some of those tougher greens, helps release flavor, and ultimately makes them more edible so you don’t feel like a rabbit trying to consume them. The only downfall to this is dressed greens won’t last as long in the fridge so have a plan to use them up within 2-3 days of preparation. Personally, I don’t ever find that difficult because a pre-dressed green salad is a dietitians’ dream work lunch and saves precious time for busy schedules.
For this recipe I used Michigan apples because, well – why on earth wouldn’t you? The flavor of EverCrisp apples is perfect for this salad. Honeycrisp would work well also. Enjoy!
1Apple, cored and cubedPreferred: Michigan EverCrisp apple
1tbspRed wine vinegar
2tbspExtra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2tbspBasil, fresh, choppedoptional
Cook quinoa according to package instructions. After done cooking, allow quinoa to come to room temperature. While cooling, add dried cranberries, cumin, salt, and pepper and stir until evenly combined. Transfer to airtight container and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
While the quinoa is cooling, whisk together the red wine vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Add the arugula to a medium plastic bowl. Pour the vinegar-oil mix over the arugula and massage into the greens for ~1-2 minutes until all the arugula is lightly coated.
Once the quinoa is chilled, cut the apple and combine the apple with the quinoa mixture.
Serve over a bed of the dressed arugula and top with pepitas and fresh basil.
But I’m pretty sure we can all agree that we’ve seen a fair share of people that get to the end of the salad bar line (with all the best intentions) and end up dumping half a cup of Ranch dressing all over their salad. We have all seen it or been culprits of it. Building a healthy salad can be a daunting task especially if we are faced with so many healthy and unhealthy options from a salad bar…bacon, hard-boiled eggs, ham, specialty cheeses, avocado, every dressing under the sun, and croutons to name a few. If we aren’t careful, entree salads can reach up to 1000 calories or more…ultimately debunking our recommended daily caloric intake.
Just like most things in life, the key to a healthy salad is balance and knowing which foods may ultimately tip the scale a little too far if you aren’t aware of portion sizes. Salads can be comprised of many different food groups (and should!) such as vegetables, lean protein, complex carbohydrates, fruits, low-fat dairy, healthy fats, and light dressing. So let’s jump right into this step-by-step toolkit.
Building your Base:
Choosing the best type of greens is essential to building a great salad. Avoid iceberg lettuce and get adventurous with the many options of nutrient-dense greens available.
Options: arugula, Asian greens (mizuna, pac choi, tatsoi, etc.), romaine, bibb, mesclun, sorrel, endive, kale, spinach, or a spring mix.
For 20 calories per 2 cups, feel free to load up your bowl!
Great sources of fiber, folate, carotenoids, iron, calcium, and vitamins C and K.
Feel free to mix in fresh herbs to add an interesting dynamic of flavor (parsley, basil, cilantro, dill).
Try massaging kale and arugula with 1-2 Tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil to make the leaves more palatable in a raw salad.
Load Up on Veggies:
The world provides endless variety when it comes to what vegetables to add to your salad. Try to stick with non-starchy vegetables to help keep your salad low-calorie and use what’s in season.
Broccoli, cucumbers, cauliflower, carrots, squash, asparagus, bell peppers, red onion, etc.
Avoid pre-marinated or fried vegetables to reduce unwanted calories from fat.
For 25 calories per ½ cup serving, you can beef up your salad with loads of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and dietary fiber.
Aim for at least 2 different vegetables on your salad to get in those anti-cancer effects!
Aim to get in at least 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
Picking your Protein:
Picking the right protein can be a little daunting. Here are few easy tips to guide you.