I am now about half way through the first Fad of the Month, salads for lunch. I’ve been about 90% compliant with the plan. It hasn’t been too difficult to stick to as long as I do a little pre-planning. I usually make the next day’s salad in the evening, either right before or while I’m making dinner so that it’s ready and waiting for me in the morning. If I had to make lunch in the morning, I’d never get it done. It’s simply out of the question. Some days I can’t even manage breakfast before I leave the house. So far I haven’t neglected to feed the cat before I leave. Here’s hoping I never do! <Knocks on head in lieu of wooden surface.>
I have a serious shortage of available decent salads from the local restaurants near my office and the ones that are decent are quite pricey, so with a few rare exceptions it’s been necessary to plan ahead and bring my own from home. On Monday, I deliberately did not bring a salad with me because I was planning on going to the local burger joint which makes this awesome salad which they call the “Gourmet Mix Salad.” It is made with spring mix of lettuce, with walnuts, chopped Macintosh apples, gorgonzola cheese and raspberry vinaigrette. The only thing is, I’m not terribly fond of Spring Mix (which I’ve reconfirmed the hard way this week) so when I order this salad, I get it on a bed of fresh spinach. It’s really delicious and I haven’t had it in quite a while. I walked up to the counter and asked Kamal, the proprietor, if they had any spinach today, and of course, they did not. Lesson learned: Always have a back up plan.
With no alternative plan in place, I had to pick something else from the menu. The good news is I ordered a club sandwich which surely must be a more healthy choice then the Bacon Cheeseburger I would otherwise have ordered. The bad news is I didn’t have a salad for lunch that day.
There are a couple salads I have had recipes for even before starting the Fad of the Month that came in handy in the beginning. One is chopped lettuce (of course), sliced apples and/or pears with walnuts, dried cranberry’s (the orange flavored Craisens are awesome) and Parmesan cheese. A separate recipe for a really excellent citrus dressing pairs nicely with this. It has orange, lemon and lime juices with olive oil and white balsamic vinegar. The recipe also calls for grapefruit juice, but I’m not a fan and while it’s not a problem for me, there are many medications that come with warnings against consuming grapefruit while taking them, so I leave it out and make up for it with extra orange juice.
Another one I really like is made with lettuce, chopped green onion, chopped bell pepper, a little chopped cilantro, sliced almonds, and a little Parmesan cheese. Dressing is a simple mix of a few tablespoons of orange juice and a tablespoon of olive oil.
I do enjoy the taste of a good salad with nice, fresh, natural ingredients, but whether it’s my imagination or actual fact, I never really sustain myself for an entire day on just a salad if it doesn’t have some meat in it. Yes, you get some protein from the cheeses and the nuts but it’s just not enough to satisfy me, so every salad I make that doesn’t already have a meat product in the recipe gets a couple of ounces of chopped up, pre-cooked chicken. You can buy 6 oz packages in the meat department for a three or four dollars and it makes salads quick and easy and a bit more satisfying. I like the honey mustard glazed variety but you can also find it in a southwest seasoning or plain. Now I imagine you’re thinking, ‘Wow, those do sound kind of good but how many times in a row can you eat them?’ and you’d be right. But, on the third or fourth day of the month, I was standing in the break area in my office, pouring the last of my Wish-Bone Light Ranch (formerly “Just 2 Good”) on the salad of the day and thinking how I needed to find some more recipes (and buy more dressing) when I noticed on the label, directly above the nutritional facts, a badge that read, “Find more inspiration at: www.wish-bone.com. I told myself, ‘Self. You need more inspiration!’ So I took my salad back to my office and pulled up the website! Folks, there is an awesome selection of potential salad recipes on this website and I’ve tried quite a few of them! Some of them were certainly better than others, but I’ll tell you, I would never have come up with some of the ideas and I’d probably still be hurting for salad originality now if I hadn’t given it a shot. Let’s take a look:
Honey Mustard Shrimp Salad:
I had this one earlier this week. Really delicious, and so simple. Broil or grill ¼ pound of shrimp per serving and “some” zucchini and/or squash seasoned with salt and pepper if desired and sprayed with Wish-bone’s Honey Mustard Buzz Salad Spritzer Dressing. This dressing is only 1.5 calories per spray and is full of flavor! And because it’s sprayed or spritzed over the salad it’s more evenly distributed and you end up using less than standard bottled and poured dressings! While the shrimp and squash are broiling (turn it once) prepare your salad greens and mix with a little green onion and cherry tomatoes. (I’m personally not fond of tomatoes in my salads so I left them out but I can imagine if you’re a tomato-er then you’ll like it.) Because I prepare my lunches the night before I put the warm stuff in a separate container and just slightly heated it (I also prefer my salads to be cold) in the microwave before eating it. I combined the cold and warm stuff as I ate so the lettuce didn’t get warm or wilty. The same dressing is used on the salad and the whole thing was roughly 170 calories.
Raspberry Shrimp & Grapes over Greens Salad:
This salad was surprising and delicious. I simply steamed about a ¼ pound of shrimp, no seasoning, and allowed it to cool. While I did that, I washed and quartered a handful of green grapes and thinly sliced some red onion. I mixed it all in a bowl drizzling some Wish-Bone Raspberry Hazelnut Vinaigrette Dressing over it. The combination of the grapes and raspberry flavors was really nice and the salad combined to make a very satisfying meal. The recipe says that one serving is 240 calories but it also calls for only 1/8th of a cup of dressing and I’m sure I had more than that. Still, as an entire meal a few extra dressing calories really wouldn’t do any harm and the salad was very enjoyable.
Asian Beef Salad:
This salad was actually better than I expected and while making it I got inspired for that nights dinner as well. I broiled and sliced the steak which had been marinated for a half hour or so in olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, garlic powder and Montreal Seasonings, spicy steak seasoning, sliced a carrot and cucumber and washed some bean sprouts and spinach. I used slivered almonds instead of cashews because I had them already and I’m not terribly fond of cashews. I’m also not fond of sesame or ginger so I used the Honey Mustard Blast Spritzer instead. This recipe says 370 calories per serving. I imagine I was pretty close to that with my substitutions. By the way, the dinner this inspired was a version of chow mein using whole wheat spaghetti and Worcestershire sauce (I didn’t have any soy) with steak, left over pork loin, carrot, green onion, garlic and bean sprouts. I would have preferred some celery as well but didn’t have any. I don’t guess this was really tremendously helpful in the desire to lose weight but it tasted good and it used up ingredients that would otherwise probably have gone bad, so at least I wasn’t wasteful.
Grilled Chicken with Pear & Walnuts Salad:
This simple salad was really tasty and made use of some ingredients that were already on hand. Simple greens, pre-cooked chicken and half a Granny Smith Apple. I topped it with walnuts (though I didn’t toast them) and some Wish-Bone Light Ranch. At 40 calories per two tablespoon serving this dressing tastes as close to the original as you could hope for without taking on the extra calories. The entire thing was 320 calories per serving and very satisfying!
Mini Pizza Salad:
The truth is this one was a little disappointing for my tastes. I really enjoyed the bread the night before when I made a second piece to go with dinner. The next day after spending twelve hours in a zip lock bag the bread was no longer crisp and didn’t seem as flavorful to me. But more importantly, I do not like tomatoes in my salads and with the simplicity of this salad I didn’t feel I could leave them out. Heavy on onion and light on much of anything else, this salad left me hungry and unapproachable. The worst part is that the remaining pita bread began molding within a couple days and I had to throw it away having only used two pieces. A waste of money!
Harvest Salad with Pork:
As you may have gathered by now, I enjoy the flavor of honey mustard and this one was right up my alley. I purchased a one pound pork loin that was prepackaged in a honey mustard glaze and roasted that in the oven. While it was cooking I prepared the salad greens, Granny Smith Apple and I used green onion and orange flavored Craisens. The pork loin made for an excellent dinner and salad for the next day and I had enough left over to augment the aforementioned chow mein! Delicious! Using the Honey Mustard Blast Spritzer again, this one came up to about 290 calories.
Baked Goat Cheese Salad:
I questioned this salad but was willing to try it. Based on price I opted for part-skim low-moisture Mozzarella cheese instead of goat cheese. They’re comparable in calories so there was no impact on the nutritional value of the salad. The cheese was easier to make then I thought and it didn’t melt and ooze like I was sure it would. The salad itself was simple but tasty and the whole thing clocked in at 320 calories.
After working my way through the selection of salads above, I realized, all it takes is a little information and a little imagination. Salads don’t have to be an exact science and they don’t have to come from a grubby, commercial salad bar. You can make your salads at home and you can make them healthy and satisfying. I made a variation of a salad I sometimes get from Applebee’s by using traditional salad greens some pre-cooked chicken (the southwest seasoning probably would’ve been better but I had the honey mustard), eight or nine black olives sliced, a couple green onions sliced, some chopped cilantro and a little shredded Mexican blend cheese. I brought a long two tablespoons of Simply Yours fat free sour cream (40 calories) and about a third cup of Pace medium picante sauce. I also brought a small zip lock bag with an ounce or two of tortilla chips. Compared to the salads above this one was probably not as beneficial, but I figured the whole thing up to be fewer than 600 calories. I could certainly have done worse!
The important thing to remember is, vegetables are so low in calories they barely even count, yet they’re a good source of fiber as well vitamins and minerals. So, go hog wild with the veggies! The place we get into trouble is with the dressings. But with a little research and attention to detail you can find some good salad dressings for not a lot of calories.
By the way, I am not being compensated by Wish-Bone, Applebee’s, Simply Yours, Pace or any of their parent companies. These are just my own experiences with these products. Now that being said, if Google AdSense happens to crawl this post and decide to put some ads for any of these companies on the sides, please check them out and see what you might find for yourselves!