You no longer feel like eating in the cafeteria or the restaurant around the corner from the office, so you decided to bring your own food to work. After some internal debates you decide to go with salad. This is supposedly nutritious, and at the same time not so heavy that you fall into a food coma during the afternoon meeting. But does salad really fill you up? Or do you turn to the trusty candy bar in your desk drawer?
Over the last 10 years we have spent a lot of time trying to find out what makes a healthy meal a pleasure for the palate and at the same time a feast for the eyes (because our eye eat, too!). Now we can finally say: We cracked the code to the perfect salad. It’s a simple 6-step formula that will help you transform the bland rabbit food into an exciting, star-worthy feast. The most important ingredient: Creativity!
Step one: Green base
The basis of every salad is a green leafy vegetable. But it does not always have to be lettuce. You can – and should – be creative right from the start, because every leafy vegetable has a different range of nutrients. Crunchy iceberg lettuce, spicy-bitter rocket or soothing field greens, for example, also differ in texture, taste and effect on the body.
There is no way around green leafy vegetables if you want to improve your health in the long run – because these small, nutritious, low-calorie and chlorophyll-rich leaves work true wonders in our bodies.
Step two: Include at least five colors
Now it’s time to bring color into the game! This doesn’t just look appealing but also serves a nutritional purpose – because each color can be assigned a specific nutrient profile. A colorful plate, therefore, guarantees that the largest possible selection of vitamins and minerals reaches our bodies. You should try to include at least five different colors in your salad – this also forces you to use more unusual ingredients such as artichokes, goji berries, chickpeas or beans.
Step three: Choose at least one water-rich ingredient
Dehydration is fatal for our body, which consists largely of water. If you drink too little water, your skin dries out, your concentration decreases, your immune system is weakened and you just feel weak. Dehydration can be easily avoided! It is obvious that you should consume enough water throughout the day (also in the form of an unsweetened herbal tea). It is even better, however, if you also eat water-rich food. Fruit and vegetables “hold” the H2O in a fine network of fibers, minerals and electrolytes. Then water remains in the body longer, which aids digestion, hydrates the kidneys and intestines, supports the elimination of toxins and relieves flatulence. So make sure that your salad also contains water-rich fruits and vegetables such as melon, cucumber, radish, celery, romaine lettuce or tomatoes.
Step four: Superfoods
They are hyped and just as sharply criticized – so-called superfoods are subject to nutritional trends and are often presented as a cure-all. The truth is in the middle – many of the well-known superfoods like goji berries, hemp or chia seeds, turmeric or medicinal mushrooms like chaga often contain above-average concentrations of certain rare nutrients. This makes them potent salad toppings, as even a small amount provides a high dose of vitamins and minerals. If you get into the habit of integrating small amounts of these superfoods here and there (e.g. in smoothies, soups or salads), you will quickly notice a positive effect.
Step five: Creative variety
The variety of fruits and vegetables is almost infinite – and you should take advantage of that. Experiment with new (old!) varieties, buy what is in season and is grown regionally. Go to the farmers’ market, get inspired and buy exactly the vegetables you have never seen before. The variety on your plate is the key to a healthy diet, and if you get really creative, you can experience completely new taste highlights.
Don’t be afraid to try out unconventional creations – maybe you will discover your new favourite recipe by chance! Nothing is off-limits: Just go through your fridge and throw together what you think might harmonize in taste. Herbs like parsley, basil or even mint. Fruit like apples, grapefruit fillets or pomegranate seeds. And animal protein such as Salmon, tuna or chicken breast (unless, of course, you are vegan). Oriental like hummus or falafel, the Mediterranean like olives or feta cheese. Even already cooked vegetables like potatoes or broccoli!
Step six: Healthy fats
In the 90s, we were still led to believe that all fat is an unhealthy fattening agent that should be rigorously removed from the diet. Since then, science has shown us otherwise – today we know that fat is essential for our metabolism, hormone production and the utilization of fat-soluble vitamins. Of course, it depends on the fat in question. It should be unsaturated, either single or multiple (Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids).
Healthy fats can be perfectly integrated into salads. Avocado, nuts or (roasted) seeds give this masterpiece that little extra flavour. And the crowning glory of every salad is, of course, the dressing – with a base of cold-pressed olive or linseed oil.
The icing on the cake
Now you know the ultimate formula for the perfect salad, and you can start right away. As always, pay attention to quality when shopping for your ingredients. It has its price, and it is absolutely worth it, because of its high quality, fresh food without additives your body needs the most.
And in the end, only one thing counts: You should enjoy your meal, and enjoy every bite until the last. Not only mindfulness is the keyword here, but also relaxation – especially with regard to calories. Because eating is so much more than just consuming energy.