How to Build A Better Winter Salad
Winter officially began yesterday, and while there may be a smaller bounty of produce during the cold-weather months, that doesn't mean you have to forgo delicious, healthy salads. Here's how to make the most of seasonal winter goodies.
Greens should be the base of your salad. Several green leafy veggies are in season during winter, including kale, spinach, endive and escarole (all can be eaten raw). Use these to supplement your lettuce of choice and aim for at least 2 cups of leafy greens per serving.
Think outside the salad box! Cube and roast sweet potato or squash for your salad. Buttercup, delicata, and other winter squashes are widely available.
Canned vegetables like beets, corn, mushrooms and hearts of palm can add distinct flavor too. Look for no-added-salt varieties (or rinse those packed in salt to reduce the sodium by about 40%). Other great veggie toppers include sun-dried tomatoes and jarred roasted peppers.
More popular proteins include chicken, beef, shrimp, eggs, tofu and beans. Canned tuna in water is quick and easy and perfect for areas that don't get as many fresh fish this time of year. Shelled frozen edamame are also an affordable go-to protein.
Whatever you desire, make it a lean choice. Avoid fried choices (like fried chicken) or foods drowning in butter sauces or mayo. Keep portions to about 2 to 3 ounces per serving.
Although you may want to top your salad with everything (it's all so delicious!), stick to one or two extra toppings to keep calories at bay. Fun winter toppings include pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, chopped nuts and raisins.
Whole grains, including farro, soba noodles, quinoa and barley can also be delicious salad toppers, but be mindful of portions, since they can add up to 200 calories per cooked cup. (A good rule of thumb is to go with ¼ cup cooked whole grains per serving.)
Seasonal fruit is also a welcome salad addition. Oranges, apples, and pears go nicely with winter greens. They should count towards your "extra" choices.
Vinaigrette dressings, like balsamic vinaigrette, tend to be the wisest dietary choices. Also consider yogurt-based dressings made with nonfat plain Greek or traditional yogurt and combine with delicious flavors like pomegranate or orange. Be sure to read the labels on bottled dressings for calories and aim for 2-tablespoon servings.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »