A journey in words...

Welcome to my journey in words! A story about health, exercise, weight loss, food addiction, humor, size discrimination, sarcasm, social commentary and all the rest that’s rattling around inside my head...

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Rethink Salad

Most people view salad as a plate of leaves topped with some stuff.  Frequently the leaves are iceberg lettuce and your standard top stuff includes some tomato and cucumber, with a few croutons and maybe carrot strips.  It’s boring.  Nutritionally you’re not getting much there – iceberg lettuce is the equivalent of eating hard water.  Also, if you top your salad with a thick, mayo based dressing like Ranch, Caesar or Thousand Island you’re actually doing yourself more harm than good by eating it.  Croutons are made by soaking bread in butter and then baking. Traditional “Caesar Salad” with its romaine, croutons, Parmesan cheese and fat-bomb dressing is in fact a complete dietary disaster.

Those big, tasty looking salad bars in grocery stores can be real pitfalls for people trying to eat healthy.  You load up your container with greens, sure, but then on top goes cheese, hard boiled egg and way too many tablespoons of dressing and at that point you honestly would have been better of just having a sandwich.  Same goes for a lot of salads listed on restaurant menus.  Notice how some restaurants will offer some healthy options these days, listing them in a separate spot on the menu?  Notice also how their salad offerings are almost never on there.

At work, my salads usually consist of grape tomato, cucumber, carrot, mushrooms, celery, broccoli, asparagus… basically whatever vegetables I’ve got in the house that can be easily grabbed and chopped into bite sized portions.  I lightly salt, and eat.  That’s it.

Fresh raw vegetation is really good all by itself, it doesn’t need to be swamped in dressing.  I eat this as a side dish for my lunch and it provides crunch, fills me up, and adds some nutrition and fiber to my day.  Leaves and dressing need not apply.

There are some leafy vegetables that have a lot of nutrition, like kale – but I don’t make a salad on top of kale because it’s a tough little plant and can read bitter when uncooked.  No, I just skip the leafy bed and the dressings and I’m good to go.

That being said, there’s something to be said for a nicely dressed salad too.  On occasion I like to make my own vinaigrette using olive oil and either vinegar or citrus (acid and base).

Yesterday I had a restaurant salad that I both enjoyed and felt was fairly nutritionally sound.  It had some fatty elements, but taken in moderation a little fat (particularly certain types of fat) are a valid portion of any balanced nutrition plan.

Here’s a recipe for a nice, filling, non-lettuce based salad if you’d like to give it a try.

Fancy Salad:
Chop the following…

Sugar snap peas (as much as you’d like to eat)
Lightly steamed asparagus spears (as many as you’d like to eat)
English cucumber with skin (as much as you’d like to eat)
Roasted red pepper (again, as much as you’d like)
¼ of an avocado
¼ cup of crumbly blue cheese
2 slices of thick cut apple wood smoked bacon

Additions and substitutions:
Adding ½ cup of black beans will add some extra protein, and to pull the fat content down simply eliminate the bacon and cheese.  Avocado is a fatty fruit, but in small amounts it is very good for you and brings up your important HDL cholesterol score, helping to protect a healthy heart.

1 & ½ tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
1 & ½ tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together, then mix up the dressing and toss the salad with it very lightly.




  1. that looks pretty awesome! I actually enjoy iceberg - the pale green\yellow interior can be sweet and it's got plenty of crunch.

    I also have been on sort of a kale kick. I had the most delicious raw kale salad - it was that weird looking dinosaur kale (aka "lacinato") which is flattish rather than all curly. It was sliced into very thin ribbons and dressed with lemon juice and a tiny bit of olive oil. It coated the greens very lightly, not so they were sitting in a pool, but just so they glistened. It also had crushed pink peppercorns and a few slivers of shaved provolone.

    1. I'll try to find some of that dinosaur kale, I've never eaten it raw because I always figured it was too bitter / tough. That salad sounds delicious though!

  2. These are my favorite kind of salads! Just all the fun crunchy veggies and some V&O and some kind of cheese. :) Did you make the one in the picture?! It looks awesome!!

    1. I wish I had made the one in the pic... HEE. No, that's how it was served to me in a restaurant, I guess they have a salad mold or something. Kinda funny - geometric salad!

  3. That looks and sounds delicious! I feel the same way as you about salads and how they can masquerade as healthy until you drench them in dressing. I'm totally down with eating raw veggies of almost any sort without any type of dressing, but I just can't eat lettuce without dressing. I usually opt for a reasonable amount of a fat-free vinaigrette dressing or even some low calorie salsa, instead.

    Also, I have some dental issues, which make eating some salad items difficult due to the crunch or chewiness (particularly things like kale). For that reason, I have to cook some veggies I'd prefer to eat raw.

  4. I just wanted to let you know I added your link to my blog here: http://my-second-chances.blogspot.com/ so I can better keep track of your posts :)

    1. I signed up to follow yours as well - you've got some awesome recipes on there. Thanks Tara!