Meal salads are just the ticket to please all the members of your family. Not only are they quick to prepare and light and crunchy tasting, but they’re also packed with flavours and freshness.
Protein is a must-have ingredient!
To turn a salad into a meal, it must contain enough protein to ensure satiety. Be sure to fill a quarter of the plate with a source of protein such as canned fish, smoked salmon, shrimp, chicken, tofu (try smoked tofu in a salad!), hardboiled eggs or legumes. Then add the foods of your choice such as lettuce, strawberries, nuts, pumpkin or hemp seeds and cheese cubes.
Did you know? A balanced meal combines vegetables and/or fruit, a whole grain and a source of protein. So, if you include vegetables, canned tuna and cheese cubes in your meal salad, all you need to do is add a whole-grain item such as a few whole-grain crackers, a slice of whole wheat bread, quinoa, buckwheat or brown rice.
For a sweet and refreshing twist
Fresh, juicy and just sweet enough, fruit instantly transforms an “ordinary” salad into an extraordinary and refreshing dish. Pineapple, mango, peach, apple, strawberries, grapes, melons and pomegranate all pair perfectly with greens and vegetables.
Tips for making homemade dressings
Commercial dressings often contain significant amounts of food additives and salt. Preparing a dressing yourself is a snap and a far healthier option, as long as you don’t use too much. Also, too much dressing will soak your salad and make it limp. It’s easy to prepare a homemade vinaigrette. Here’s how:
- Mix oil (olive, canola, camelina, avocado, sunflower, roasted sesame) and vinegar (rice, balsamic or white or red wine) in equal parts or reduce the amount of fat by trying the 1:2 ratio. For example, mix 1 tbsp. (15 ml) of oil with 2 tbsp. (30 ml) of vinegar.
- Switch things up by replacing part of the oil with a citrus juice such as grapefruit, clementine or orange. You’ll get a zesty fresh, guaranteed!
- For creamy dressings, replace all or part of the mayonnaise or cream with plain yogurt. Greek yogurt’s creamy texture is fabulous for whipping up creamy and nutritious vinaigrettes. Quark cheese, which is a fresh cheese, also works well. Give these no-fail ideas a try!
- Be bold and experiment with different tastes and ingredients to create unique dressings packed with flavour: fresh or dried herbs, pesto, lemon and lime zest, mustard (Dijon, traditional style), garlic, ginger, soy sauce, honey, maple syrup, sriracha hot sauce, etc.
One of my favourite healthy dressings: olive oil, plain Greek yogurt, freshly squeezed orange juice, orange zest, honey, cumin, a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper.
Add a dash of creativity
The sky’s the limit when it comes to combining flavours, textures and colours in meal salads. Here are some ideas to inspire you; all you need to do is add your own homemade dressing!
- Shredded carrots + iceberg lettuce + mango cubes + juicy strawberries + sliced cucumber + chopped green onion + northern shrimp + pecans
- Vegetable julienne + romaine lettuce + chickpeas + pineapple cubes + currants + roasted flaked almonds + minced red onion + boiled egg
- Beet julienne + quinoa + green apple + goat cheese + thinly sliced shallot + walnuts + grilled chicken strips
- 100% Carrot fettuccines + red pepper + mango strips + green onions + coriander + grilled chicken cubes
Photo credits: Julie Desgroseillers et Virginie Marcoux