Confession: I, a former health and fitness editor and a current certified health coach, used to abhor salads nearly as much as Cardi B. abhors Nicki Minaj. (That would be a lot, apparently.)
I was under the impression that every salad ever created consisted of romaine (Watery crunch? Pass.), some sort of medium-soft cheese, often an overwhelmingly tangy one, and balsamic dressing. This was what all the salads of my youth, picked at during family dinners, were comprised of.
As I’ve learned, and as I’m sure you know, I was wrong. There are many ways to put to together a salad, and romaine never needs to be involved if you don’t want it to be.
Salads are also an easy way to make sure you’re part of the measly 10 percent of Americans who actually eats enough vegetables. That’s right: 90 percent of us don’t get the recommended servings per day.
Below, my top tricks for training yourself to like salad, whatever your reason for hating ‘em. You’ll thank me later.
The problem: You hate salads because they’re annoying to make.
The fix: Invest in a salad-making toolkit.
There are a few items that take salad-making from tedious to easy as pie:
1. A mandoline: You can find this vegetable slicing tool online on Amazon for around $20, and it is truly priceless. Using this, you can easily slice veggies like radishes, carrots, onions, zucchini, Brussels sprouts—anything, really—straight into your salad bowl, meaning there’s no need for a cutting board, a knife, or a mess.
2. A microplane: This bad boy (basically a very fine grater) is really useful for grating anything from ginger to garlic to lime zest for flavorful dressings. Meaning: You’ll never have to mince again. And as us seasoned salad eaters know, the key to a good salad is, of course, the dressing.
3. Salad spinner: Because washing greens and herbs can definitely be laborious enough to make you turn to takeout, and this takes the pain away.
The problem: You hate salads because they never fill you up.
The fix: Know your essentials.
Say it with me: protein, fiber, healthy fats, and greens. Not the most exciting chant, but one worth remembering. As well-known nutritionist Kelly Leveque has explained, making sure you cover these four bases—which, all combined, help to fill you up, slow digestion so you stay full (this is key), balance blood sugar and fight inflammation—means you won’t find yourself drowning in post-lunch hanger, elbow-deep in the office candy jar and swearing off salads for life.
The problem: You hate salads because you think they’re all like the gross salad-bar creations you had as a kid.
The fix: Think outside of the salad-bar box.
Remember: A salad doesn’t have to look like a bed of greens topped with cherry tomatoes and shredded carrots, drizzled in balsamic dressing. As long as you’re squeezing the four essentials in—let’s say it again: protein, fiber, healthy fats and greens—you can create any combination you’d like.
Maybe that means your green is an out-of-the-box option, using a cruciferous veggie like shaved Brussels sprouts as your base (this is where that mandoline comes in handy!) instead of kale. Maybe you want to incorporate protein through a hemp seed dressing, like this one. My point? Don’t be afraid to think outside of the salad-bar box.
The problem: You hate the taste of vegetables, plain and simple.
The fix: Find your favorite dressing and keep your fridge stocked.
Dousing your kale in plain ol’ olive oil is noble and all, but if the taste of vegetables is what turns you off of salad, let’s face it: Olive oil is simply not going to do the trick of getting you to actually eat a bowl of greens. So, stocking your fridge with a good salad dressing is essential.
Along with making your kale taste, well, less like kale, the fat in dressing helps your body to absorb fat-soluble nutrients, so you get the most out of your lunch or dinner.
Bon Appétit has plenty of salad dressing recipes to choose from here, many of which you can make ahead of time. Recently, an avocado-based green goddess dressing has been my drug of choice. (I’m telling you, it’s more addictive than bad Bravo TV on a rainy day.) You can find the recipe for my take on that here.
The problem: You’re easily bored by salad ingredients.
The fix: Get creative with toppings
Savory granola is a thing, and I’m here to tell you it’s a thing you should be putting on your salads. It’s salty, crunchy and offers an unexpected burst of flavor to distract from that whole “tastes like health” flavor salads can have. Plus, filled with nuts and seeds, it’s a great way to sneak extra in protein, fats, and fiber.
Another great salad topper is mushroom bacon. Yep: mushroom bacon. There’s a recipe for it here, but the instructions are simple: slow-roast mushrooms with garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil until they’re to your liking—longer if you like your bacon crispy, shorter if you like it a little chewy.
The problem: You hate salads because you feel like you’re eating rabbit food.
The fix: Bulk up your bowl.
One common complaint from salad-haters is that a bowl of greens does not a real meal make. Well, my salad-hating friends, this is where fillers like whole grains come in. Grains like quinoa and brown rice help to up the filling protein and fiber count of your salad, while also adding texture to your bed of leaves.
Legumes, like black beans and chickpeas, are also great items to bulk up your salads, adding texture along with protein and fiber.
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