Ain't nobody got time for that!
A phrase often applied to healthy eating on the daily.
And not without reason, I might add. Always eating, as recommended by many health gurus, the freshest possible food with the most nutritional value, paired with other foods that boost the nutrition of whatever "superfood" you've gotten your hands on this time (and prepared in an at least semi-appetizing manner) can be... a chore, at times.
I mean, sure, there's always frozen food... or prepackaged food... or the occasional health-food-on-the-go... but that's not always the tastiest or most cost-effective of ways to do it, is it? Like... have you ever eaten a salad from a fast-food joint? C'mon, we can SO do better!
Well then, what are we left with? To streamline our refrigerators and force healthy to be friends with easy!
I love making salads. Actually, I love EATING salads. What I don't love is: A) taking the time to chop everything from scratch each and every day B) soggy salads made the day before C) salad dressings that DECREASE the nutritional value of my salad! (Think sugary, overly salty stuff with additives so you can keep it emulsified, forever, in the fridge door.)
Yeah, no. Those are things I ain't got time for.
Instead, I get together about 3 or 4 of the best ingredients for a salad, chop them all up at once, and pack them into ziplock bags or storage containers for the week. Same goes for the dressing. It's ridiculously simple, but WAY more fresh tasting/non-soggy/anti-time-consuming than doing it some other way.
Only one more thing I feel important to take up your little bit of free time with. Why these ingredients? Well, I'll tell you why. But only because I know you care a lot about nutritional value and absorption and such! Also, that way, you can find other ingredients that do similar things for your salad, so you can go wild trading them out.
- Dark leafy greens: So full of vitamins and minerals, it practically IS a vitamin. Okay, no, kale does not equal vitamin. But this stuff is serious about nutrition. Vitamins K, C, calcium, beta-carotein, and other antioxidants abound. Also - fiber!
- Carrots: Beta-carotene! Eyesight! Crunchy and delicious!
- Sugar snap peas: Vitamin C, niacin, folate, vitamin K, minerals, and antioxidants... oh yeah, and they're super yummy and easy to chop and store for the week!
- Tomato paste: Cooked tomatoes provide more lycopene, one of the most powerful antioxidants out there, for the body than even raw tomatoes. There are also plenty of other vitamins and minerals - but it's important to know: Tomato paste is concentrated, and therefore, a leetle beet makes the salad REALLY flavorful without adding many calories! Store a can in the fridge, and cover with cling wrap after opening for easy access.
- Hass avocado: Did you know, adding a healthy fat to your salad can increase nutrient absorption from the other ingredients? Fat soluable vitamins ADEK are processed better with the addition of ingredients like avocado/coconut oil/ olive oil... but I think avocados make salads taste just awesome!
- *To make using avocados even easier, I like to freeze my (pureed) avocado in little blocks and defrost as I go. Freeze in an ice cube tray and transfer to a freezer bag, or roll up into wax paper, freeze on a large pan, and transfer to a freezer bag! Move to a container in the fridge for overnight magical instant avocado or put in a little waterproof baggie and submerge in lukewarm water for a few minutes.
- Lemon juice or vinegar: These acidic additions not only provide that salad-dressingy ZING! they also can preserve freshness of the salad if you're adding it in the morning before toting it to work, and it can help stabilize blood sugar! This makes it the super hero here, because it can keep you from experiencing some of the hunger-swings associated with eating other foods, especially carbs.
- Spice blend: Yummy! Can make you eat slower! Capsaicin from red pepper and black pepper can increase metabolism a tiny, but effective, bit! Add as much herbs and spices as you like!
Overall... if you haven't gotten my point here... doing salad and dressings like this can make it super easy to get all your nutrition in seconds every day. It's also really easy to make little changes based on daily preference without taking a lot of extra time!
Oh and try to make all the ingredients organic, wherever possible!
Easiest Salad Dressing (+ Nutrition Booster!)
For the salad base:
70 g or around 3 loosely packed cups mixed spring greens/kale/spinach, freshly chopped
85 g or approximately 2/3 cup...ish fresh sugar snap peas, freshly chopped
85 g or about 1/2 cup baby cut (or peeled regular) carrots, freshly chopped
For the impromptu salad dressing:
15 g or about 1 T. tomato paste
45 g or 1.5 oz (which ended up being about 1/2 of this tiny Hass avocado!), mashed or pureed
1 T. lemon juice (or lime juice or vinegar of choice!)
My favorite spices to keep at the front of the cabinet, applied liberally:
Cracked black pepper, garlic granules or powder (not garlic salt!), onion powder, red pepper flakes
And finally, for a Southwestern flair: cumin + chili powder
OR for an Italian flair: Italian herb blend or oregano
Toss all the salad ingredients together, and add any extras, such as eggs/meat/tofu, a few nuts or seeds, or any other chopped veggies you like!
Put all the salad dressing ingredients right on top of the salad and mix it all together!
Believe it or not, you can actually do this in the morning before work, too. Just put the salad in the bottom of your leakproof lunch container, the dressing ingredients on top (unmixed), and store in an insulated lunchbox with an icepack. (Don't forget your fork!)