Make a Salad a Meal

Do you love the idea of a chef's salad -- the entire meal in one beautifully composed bowl -- but hate the same old iceberg lettuce, ham and turkey slices, and hard-boiled-egg taste? Let's get innovative and create fresh and new salads that are a meal in themselves.

The Basics
What is a salad without vegetables? Make sure that vegetables make up half to three-quarters of your salad creation. Use as many different vegetables as you can find, or rely on one or two particularly fresh and delicious greens. Experts agree that most of us fall far short in eating our daily requirements of green and crunchy foods, so don't be afraid to pile on the veggies.

Some Protein
To make a salad a meal, you'll need to include some form of protein. Consider these various protein-containing foods for 15 to 25 percent of the ingredients in your salad:

  • legumes (lentils, split peas, chickpeas, etc.)
  • tofu, either plain or marinated in your favorite salad dressing
  • chicken or turkey (use shredded poultry from a bird you roasted yourself or breasts that have been steamed in a flavorful broth)
  • seafood, including tuna, shrimp, scallops or marinated and cooked fish
  • nuts and seeds, including walnuts, peanuts or sunflower seeds for starters
  • cheese, the more flavorful the better

Often the most prominent flavor in a salad comes from the dressing, so make sure you choose one you love. You can marinate the vegetables, protein source or both in a tangy sauce that also doubles as the dressing. Or try a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a fresh taste that doesn't hide the scrumptious vegetables.

For Fun and Variety
Experiment with foods you don't normally find in a salad:

  • Fruit. Try strawberries, shredded apples or pears, pineapple chunks or sliced peaches tossed with vegetables and a tangy citrus dressing.
  • Wheat or oat bran. Looking for extra crunch? Toss in toasted bran for an unexpected boost.
  • Fresh herbs. Try tossing familiar herbs such as parsley or basil with your greens, or simply walk through your herb garden and pick whatever is fresh.
  • Grains. Couscous, rice, orzo and bulgur are just a few of the delicious grains that you can mix with vegetables into a great-tasting cold salad. The grains can compose the bulk of the salad, or they can be a supporting ingredient.

To round out your main-course salad, add a crusty whole-grain bread, mineral water spiked with twists of lemon and lime, and a fresh fruit tart for dessert. Simple, delicious, and easy to prepare.

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