Salads get a bad rap for being healthy but boring, full of nutrients but tasteless, or made up of great foods but too fatty with dressings and toppings! The stigmas are stuck on the notion that we’ve either made a salad with a lot left to be desire or ruined a perfectly healthy thing.
The salads du jour are coming around with more creativity and color, showcasing unique dressings and seasonal vegetables. More restaurants are mixing greens and grains for an added nutrient boost, and we’re so close to achieving a healthy salad balance!
Often times, for the omnivores and vegetarians alike, the only missing piece may be high-quality protein. When you take away bacon bits, chunks of cheese, and candied nuts, the options seem to dwindle.
For vegetarians, vegans and omnivores alike, there are plenty of ways to pack your salad with protein! Using the three tips below, you’ll have one healthy meal that gives you all you need.
1. Pile on the nuts and seeds! One serving (1/4 cup or 1 oz) of chopped nuts or seeds can provide up to 6-10g of protein. For a variety of fats and micronutrients, mix it up! Try adding chopped up almonds and roasted pumpkin seeds (i.e. pepitas), chopped up walnuts and sunflower seeds, or mix a few different nuts and ground flax seed.
2. Hard-boil in bulk and have a few eggs ready to top your salads during the week! Storing them shelled in the fridge will keep them fresh for a few days, making it easy to peel and pile on top of any salad. Two eggs on a salad will add about 12-14g of protein.
3. Vary your protein-of-choice. If your dietary preferences include poultry, meat and fish, vary your salad-topper throughout the week so you get different nutrients and fats. Canned tuna and salmon are great on-the-go options; grilled chicken and steak are easy to prepare ahead of time and slice up.
Each will add anywhere from 20-30g of protein to your salad! One serving size is 2-3 oz of cooked meat, poultry or fish.
Bonus tip! Don’t forget that some vegetables are higher in protein, too! By adding ½ avocado, 1 cup of roasted winter squash and 1 cup of broccoli, you’ll accumulate 7-8g of protein. It’s easy to get these healthy protein sources to bulk up your salad and keep you full while providing a variety of nutrients!
Heather Caplan is a registered dietitian and running coach based out of the San Jose, CA area. She’s usually training for a marathon, traveling, teaching or practicing yoga – or all of the above! You can find her life anecdotes or work with her over at HeatherCaplan.com.
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