Friday, October 10, 2014

The Secret to Making a Kick-Ass Salad You'll Actually Crave

I'm known as the salad guy. Every day, without fail, lunch is always a salad. Sometimes I'll go a few months eating more or less the same one. Other times, I'll vary things up. Either way, my salads are one of the most nutrient-dense meals I prepare. Especially during periods of heavy training, this is critical for getting a lot of the vitamins, minerals and nutrients I need to recovery properly. The high nutrient density is also why I'll actually start craving dark leafy greens and vegetables if I'm forced to go more than 36 hours without a salad (like if I'm traveling). Ask my wife, I can get pretty cranky.

So, what's the secret recipe?

Well, recipe might be too much of an exact word for my salads. I don't really measure things out, unless a handful of this, a shake of this, and a pinch of that is considered "measuring." Mostly, I just like to take a bunch of different vegetables, throw them in a big bowl, add some seasoning and fat, and dig in.

Here's how it goes:

Step 1: Start with a nice, large bowl, something that can fit at least six cups. But, don't be shy, I've used some of our largest mixing bowls for salads.

Step 2: Add in your favorite dark leafy green. This can be spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, arugula, chard, mustard greens, or some combination. Stick with organic when you can to reduce the chances of being exposed to pesticide residue.

Step 3: Chop 3-4 vegetables of your choosing: cucumber, bell peppers, tomatoes, radishes, really whatever looks good at the grocery store and you're in the mood for. The "organic rule" applies here too. Instead of chopping them, I use a peeler and shave pieces of carrot on top.

Step 4: Add an herb: parsley, cilantro, oregano. They add a nice flavor and many herbs, particularly parsley and cilantro, are great at helping to detoxify.

Step 5: Add some fat and protein. My one-two combo for this are avocado and sardines. I love sardines because they are low on the food chain, so you don't have the same heavy metal risk as larger fish, and they pack an amazing nutrient profile, particularly omega-3s. So, if you're a hard charging athlete, or just want to support a healthy nervous or immune system, these should be a go-to. One word of caution with sardines: be mindful of the brand you buy, particularly where the sardines are from and if the can is BPA-free (BPA is a known endocrine-disruptor, aka messes with your hormonal system, and has been linked to a number of health problems). A favorite brand of mine is Wild Planet.

Step 6: Add sea salt and pepper to taste. Because I follow a fairly low-carbohydrate diet, I find I need to add salt to a lot of my food to ensure my blood pressure doesn't get too low. I stick with himalayan sea salt when I can.

Step 7: Dress with extra-virgin olive oil (again preferably organic, cold-pressed, and packaged in a dark bottle to avoid too much sun/heat exposure, which can damage the delicate fats). I stay away from any commercial dressings since many are made with soybean or other vegetable oils. One brand I've found to be the exception is Tessemae's, which has olive oil-based dressings. I'm fairly liberal when it comes to the olive oil, since that, the avocado, and sardines are the largest sources of calories in the meal.

Step 8: Grab a fork and dig into your kick-ass salad!

Try one this weekend and let me know how it turns out! If you have a favorite version of your own kick-ass salad, share in the comments.

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