A Guide to Building a Nutritious Salad
Aren’t you tired of hearing and frequently reading those three often repeated words – EAT YOUR VEGETABLES! And to take it further – EAT THEM RAW!
We know how desperately you have wanted to increase the vegetables in your diets and have wanted to add Salads to your diet. Many of you may have done so after looking up recipes online and may have told yourselves – “Yes! This is what I am going to do hereafter”. A handful – may have stuck to it and made Salads a daily inclusion. Most may have continued it for a while, till… the novelty wore off and no recipe interested you. Others may have thought about it and then decided that it’s too tedious and time consuming to concoct elaborate Salads with every main meal.
So, you ask … is this blog about easy to do salad recipes? – Well, there are a few recipes in our recipe section, but this piece is about learning to make a salad the easy and right way, so that it is a part of the mindset we have when we plan a main meal. This blog is about empowering yourself to create and curate your own salad recipes based on what is available in your kitchen and fridge. Exotic…oh! We do that too!
This blog to Saladify (a term invented by the creative minds at Nutrition with Vibha) your diet is divided into levels – from the easy to the elaborate.
Read on, enjoy and apply!
Level 1: THE EASY – PEASY:
This level is for the beginners, novices and the lazy starters – Hey! Both Men and Women and A double Hey! Also, Children and Adolescents (the group that we want in the kitchen too, contributing to family meals)
The Easy – Peasy salads are meant for you when you do not have the time to go elaborate, when you want it the quick way, in a jiffy. For times when you have a bustling day and a tight evening.
These are the ones wherein we simply slice the vegetables into sticks, wedges or roundels and serve it chilled. Of course, the closer to the meal, the better. The vegetables used could be carrots, boiled beet, cucumber, tomato, cabbage, lettuce, all capsicums, celery sticks and onions. This salad though needs an accompaniment or a dressing or a dip to enhance the flavours of the vegetables.
One can salt and pepper it or add a dash of chaat masala to it. If you need some tang, a dash of lime juice and a sprinkle of chopped coriander will be perfect and the veggies tossed in it will make it delicious. It can be twisted to the Italian flavour with a dash of red chilli flakes and oregano too.
This can also be served with a dip. Imagine a casual lunch or dinner where conversations are peppered with a large plate of vegetable sticks and a delectable dip. So, you ask – What can the dip be? Well, from a spiced mayonnaise (We at Nutrition with Vibha may wrinkle our nose at that a little bit due to the high fat content – but hey – that’s us – you can use it occasionally if you like), Hummus (Made from Chickpeas ie Kabuli Chana – Select a good easy to do Hummus recipe, make it over the weekend and stock it for the week) to a delectable hung curd dip. Do not discard the nutrient rich curd whey water, it is meant to be used in soups and gravies or dals or you can use it to knead the dough.
Dress up the curd dip with salt and pepper or go the Italian spices and herbs way or chop a bit of mint or coriander into it or if you want to up the nutrition quotient further then add finely chopped or grated cucumber of carrots to it or grated cheese. To flavour it up more… add some cream cheese or cheese spread and crushed roasted garlic or peanuts. Oh! That will tingle your taste buds for sure!
Level 2 – OH! I CAN DO THIS!
A level in which you are ready to put in a little more effort into this.
These salads have a base and layers. The base is made of vegetables – take your pick of them – Raw – Cucumber, tomatoes, onions, spring onions, capsicums, lettuce…you get the drift…
Keep your set of 2 -3 vegetable combinations that you like ready (easy for the shopping bit). Now add the layers for texture and taste.
Layer One is the Crunchy texture – gives the salad a good bite – we can use any nuts for this purpose – peanuts, sliced almonds, chopped cashews or walnuts.
Layer two is a sweet flavour – the best to use for this are fruits – both fresh and dried. You can add the usually added fruits like pomegranate, pineapple, apple, orange, grapes, dates, anjeer (figs) or raisins. You can go creative here too and experiment with papaya (both raw or ripe), mango – yes you read right – Mango! Delectable with cucumber and some cheese or pear or use some exotic dried cranberries or blackberries. So is a peanut, guava and paneer combination!
Layer three is the protein part – some cheese or some sprouts or some boiled whole pulses or some low-fat paneer. Soaked and squeezed soya granules or boiled and shredded chicken or eggs can also be added.
All that remains is the dressing of your choice! Go the simple salt pepper and vinegar way or the olive oil, vinegar and salt pepper way. You could also make it a sweet-sour combination with lime juice and honey or just 3 tablespoons of orange juice and a dash of vinegar with the spices of your choice. A dash of cinnamon powder is great too, especially if using fruits.
Level 3: YAY! I DID IT!
This one is a salad where there is a bit of cooking to be done. You can use cooked vegetables or a mix of cooked and raw vegetables.
Let’s see which are the slightly parboiled vegetables that you could use – Cauliflower, Broccoli, potatoes (We at Nutrition with Vibha give you a sweet smile if you use the potatoes with its skin – more nutrients and fibre delight us!), corn, peas, carrots, beetroot. Make a 3 – 4 vegetable mix that you like and of course this can be combined with roasted capsicum or tomatoes or the ever-ready cucumbers too.
How to cook it, you ask… Cook it well but not too much, enough but retain its crunchiness a bit. You could steam it or use a good quality cookware – the kind that cooks fast over a low fire or roast it in the oven (Oh! Really a delicious flavour) or microwave it.
You can make it a bit more nutritious by adding any protein sources like low fat paneer or cheese or boiled egg or shredded chicken.
Now all you need to do is to add the dressing to it. Pick any of the dressings mentioned above. Your fabulous salads are ready!
Level 4: AND I AM A CHAMPION!
This level of salad is where IT CAN BE A WHOLE MEAL! A meal in a bowl.
So, what do you need for it?
The cereal: The choices are pasta or slices of toasted Pita bread or khakhras on the side. Another idea is to use boiled grains like Couscous, quinoa, bajra or daliya, slightly spiced and layer it with the vegetables.
The protein: Use well marinated and grilled or boiled and flaked chicken or boiled egg or scrambled egg or shredded omelette. The vegetarian choices are sprouts, boiled chickpeas or any other whole pulse or cooked beans.
The vegetables – the Hero of the Salad: Use any of the salad vegetables. Remember that 2/3rd of the bowl should consist of vegetables – while preparing for the family and for an individual serving.
Use the dressing of your choice and up the taste with some roasted capsicum or tomatoes on the side and adding some roasted or sauteed garlic or spring onions in the salad.
Level 5: PAR DIL HAI HINDUSTANI!
Indians have been salad lovers since time immemorial and have always had it in their plate – the Indian Thali. Just that it is called by other names like kachumbar, koshimbir, raitas, chana chaat and so on…But a Salad by any other name is just as nutritious!
Raitas (vegetables with a spiced curd dressing) add that dash of whatever you want and some nutrition to the meal. The most common are the cucumber and tomato raitas to which some finely chopped onion, green chillies and chopped coriander, if added transports the dish to heaven.
Other interesting options are the fruit raitas – singly or in combination with vegetables (We at Nutrition with Vibha give you a thumbs up if there are veggies too) pineapple, apple, pomegranate, date and some nuts to it (Roasted and crushed peanuts or chopped walnuts).
Then there are those vegetables that we don’t expect often in raitas – but the dish turns out very refreshing – like boiled sweet potatoes, boiled potatoes (this goes well with finely chopped mint), bottle gourd or roasted red pumpkin. Using parboiled and finely chopped spinach in raitas really ups the nutrition aspect of the meal, aside from the fact that such a raita bowl with roasted and crushed cumin (jeera) turns this dish into a delight to the palate.
Indian salads can also be the simple chana chat or a simple shredded crunchy cooked cabbage with a slight tempering of mustard seeds and red chillies.
So, here are the five levels of Salads that you can use in your meal.
Remember to schedule it well. In a week you have 14 meals that need salads. Mix and match from each of these levels according to your convenience and inclination and voila … you have saladified your diet!
One important point of consideration – Serve the salad with love and some drama. Make it the centre of attraction on the table. Make it the centre of your attention. Stylise it. Glamourise it. Treat it like you would treat your first love – with all that zest and energy, be excited about it and watch the excitement grow in your family!
With this roadmap, you can build your own salad with creativity and innovation and soon your family will say the three magic words to the Salad – You are Delicious!
Visit our Recipe section for a few salad recipes. We are soon coming out with a booklet just on Salads to whet your appetite. Till then… Happy Saladification!Write to us at [email protected] on what you want to read more about as well as your comments and suggestions and of course your questions. We at Nutrition with Vibha want you to be a Health and Nutrition empowered pillar of society.