Salads are very versatile and can be something that accompanies other foods to make a meal or they can be meals all by themselves, provided you include a balance of food groups to make it satisfying.
Salads don’t have to be boring or too complicated. Forget about the boring salads with no dressing (and no flavour) that you may have had if you’ve dieted in the past. Salads can be nutritious and delicious.
This blog post aims to help you make a variety of salads by picking and choosing different elements to make it satisfying as a meal. The free PDF printout can be used to hang on your fridge door to help you create different salads each time. Or, of course, you can stick with your favourite combinations – the choice is all yours.
Components of a salad
To make a salad a meal, choose foods from the categories below to ensure your salad meets the nutritional requirements of a meal. The salad should give you energy, nutrients and keep you satisfied.
Salads generally need foods from the following categories to make it a nutritious meal:
- Leafy greens
- Colour from a range of vegetables and fruit
- Toppings for crunch and flavour
Steps to create your salad
Start with your base – leafy greens
Choose leafy greens as the base of your salad. Try one variety or several, it’s up to you.
Leafy greens contain vitamin C, folate, iron, Vitamin A and K. They are also high in antioxidants which can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Leafy greens you may like to try are:
- Baby spinach
- Lettuce (try different varieties)
Adding carbohydrates to your salad will give you energy and increase the fibre content. Choose a range of different grains each time you create a salad which can help feed your gut microbiome and improve gut health. For further information about gut health read my blog post.
Carbohydrates you may like to try are:
- Pasta or noodles
- Rice (try brown, white or wild rice)
- Cous Cous
- Legumes (kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils etc)
Protein in a salad will help keep you satisfied. It is also important during menopause as muscle mass starts to decrease at this age.
Give these protein foods a try:
- Meat or poultry
- Fish – canned or cooked from fresh
- Seafood like shellfish or mussels
- Legumes (cannellini beans, lentils, black beans, falafel)
- Nuts and seeds
- Cheese (feta, goats cheese, parmesan, cheddar)
Adding colourful vegetables and fruit will make your salad more visually appealing and will add a variety of vitamins and minerals as different coloured plant foods have different nutrients.
Increasing the variety of fruit and vegetables will also help support gut health and add fibre.
Vegetables can be prepared in advance and may be steamed or, my favourite, roasted. You can also chop up or grate raw vegetables and keep them in a container in the fridge to easily add to your salads.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Roasted vegetables (sweet potato, pumpkin, zucchini, red onion, capsicum/pepper)
- Steamed vegetables (peas, green beans, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, carrot)
- Raw vegetables (cucumber, tomato, grated beetroot, grated carrot, celery, avocado, mushrooms)
- Fruit (apple, pear, berries, melon, pomegranate, peaches, grapes)
Adding crunch and flavour
Salads don’t have to be bland and flavourless. Adding strong flavours and crunch can make eating a salad very enjoyable.
Try to challenge thoughts you have about salads that may have come from years of dieting. Menopause is the time to nourish your body and what better way to that than with a delicious salad with lots of flavour.
Some ideas for adding crunch and flavour:
- Bacon bits
- Strong cheese (parmesan, goats cheese, feta, aged cheddar)
- Nuts and seeds (try toasting them for added flavour)
- Dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, dates)
And now for the salad dressing
The dressing brings all the components together and enhances the flavours. A salad without a dressing is, let’s face it, boring! You will get a lot more enjoyment from your salad with a yummy dressing drizzled on the top.
Here are some delicious salad dressing recipes you might like to try:
Everyday dressing: 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, 3 tbsp olive oil, ½ tsp mustard, salt & pepper to taste
Asian style dressing: 1 tbsp white vinegar, 2 ½ tbsp olive oil, ½ tbsp sesame oil, ½ tsp honey, ½ tsp soy sauce
Creamy mustard dressing: 1 ½ tbsp mayonnaise, 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, 1 tsp wholegrain mustard, pinch salt and sugar, pepper to taste.
Method: Choose an option and shake ingredients in a small jar or whisk in a bowl until fully combined. Drizzle over salad.
Or try these recipes for something different:
Creamy avocado dressing https://www.recipetineats.com/creamy-avocado-salad-dressing/
Sour cream salad dressing https://thecookspyjamas.com/sour-cream-salad-dressing/
Honey mustard dressing https://www.inspiredtaste.net/38249/honey-mustard-dressing-recipe/
Some of my favourite salad combinations:
- Rocket/arugula with chicken, sliced pear, lentils and parmesan cheese
- Green beans, potato, tuna, olives and baby spinach
- Chickpeas, cucumber, tomato, tuna, olives, feta
- Spinach, egg, bacon, avocado, tomato, feta and pasta
Hints and tips for easier salad making
- Make extra roast or steamed vegetables when cooking your evening meal
- Cook extra rice, pasta, noodles etc to store in the fridge for salads
- Chop and grate raw vegetables and store them in containers in the fridge
- Have canned legumes and vegetables in the pantry at all times
- Pre-prepare foods like boiled eggs, cooked potato or felafel and store in the fridge
- Buy microwave grain sachets like rice and quinoa to save time
- Cook extra meat, fish or chicken to store in the fridge for salads
- Buy a rotisserie chicken to add to salads
Free salad making printout
Do you want to have this information handy to stick on your refrigerator? Sign up to my email newsletter and get your free “Create your own salad” PDF here.
Making a salad with a range of components will ensure it is a nourishing and satisfying meal. Salad components include greens, carbohydrate, protein, colour, crunch and flavour and,of course, a delicious dressing to bring it all together.
Pick and choose to create your own favourite salads and add try one of the salad dressing recipes or use a store-bought one.
Don’t forget to print out your free pdf to have handy and remind you of all the different combinations of salads you can create and enjoy.