Struggling with salad? I know, salad can be boring or downright tedious. But think of a main dish salad not as a “diet food” but an everyday, delicious way to get in a ton of veggies and feel satisfied, with minimal calories to help manage your weight.

Here are a few tips to max out the appeal of your main dish salad so that it’s as delicious as it is nutritious. 

  • Dressing on the side. I know you’ve heard this one before. But it’s so important because calories from most dressings add up super fast, and more dressing than you need or want doesn’t add enjoyment to the salad, just extra fat and calories. A good option is dipping your fork in dressing before piercing the salad. If you like your salad swimming in dressing, thin it out with water or lemon juice first; you’ll still get the flavor but with control over calories. Many people opt for the fat free dressings, but they’re often full of sugar. 
  • Rather than using an oil-based dressing, make healthy dressing one of your salad ingredients. Most dressings are based on cream, oil, or water and sugar, which deliver a lot of calories but not many nutrients or necessarily flavor. Strategize by selecting a nutrient-dense base and spiffing it up with seasoning. Most of these dressings have a good amount of healthy fats, which will aid in the absorption of the nutrients from the greens.
  • A cup of unsweetened plain yogurt (dairy, soy, coconut) with 3 tbsp chopped fresh dill (or 1 tbsp dried), lemon juice and sea salt to taste. Thin out with unsweetened nut milk or dairy milk.
  • 1/4 cup tahini (ground sesame seeds) blended with a clove or two of garlic, plus lemon juice and a few drops of soy sauce, thinned out with some water (this is a traditional sauce served with Middle Eastern falafel, and it is great on salad too)
  • 1/4 cup Miso paste thinned out with water, blended with 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds a pinch of ginger powder, and salt
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews in the blender with 2 cloves fresh garlic, a squeeze of lime juice, salt, pepper, and water. Short on time? Used jarred cashew butter, pricier but more convenient.
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter, 1 tbsp grated ginger, splashes of rice vinegar, soy sauce, and hot sauce blended with water and a little sweetener
  • “Buttermilk” dressing made with about a half cup of dairy or nut milk blended in the blender or food processor with 2 tbsp white vinegar until thick, plus pickled relish or a few chopped olives, 2 tbsp mixed herbs, salt, pepper, and 1 tbsp finely ground flax seeds
  • 1 large avocado in the blender plus 1 tbsp vinegar, 2 cloves of garlic, juice from 1 lime, 1 tsp sweetener, a few drops of olive oil, fresh cilantro, salt, and a jalapeño pepper (optional)
  • 1 cup grated carrots in the blender with 1 tbsp fresh ginger, 1 tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper, and water to desired consistency
  • Watching your calories? Try some quick and easy super low-cal dressings:
    • Apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, water, and a few drops of liquid stevia
    • Parsley, cilantro, and lemon juice in the blender, thinned out with water and salted to taste
    • Flavored rice vinegar plus water and a little fresh parsley
    • 1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar blended in the blender with a few soaked raisins, 1 tsp soy sauce, onion and garlic powders
    • 1:1:1 ratio of water and cider vinegar, and lemon juice plus a sprinkle of curry powder and a few drops of liquid stevia

by Dina Aronson, MS, RDN

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