Most individuals do not consider salad a meal. We love to pass it off as a side dish or that it can only be consumed as a lunchtime meal. It is almost like we forget how much we appreciate a fresh, delicious salad until we are so depleted of adequate nutrients that our body screams out in desperation for those mixed greens. Our society would be much healthier if we opted to include more salad into our everyday food consumption.

The health benefits of salad are exceptional and the greatest aspect is the uniqueness and the freedom of creation. You can transform any plate of greens into a work of art depending on your desires for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The key is that the more colorfully diverse the plate is there is an increase in the likelihood that it is more nutritious as well as delicious. Take your everyday monotonous salad and spice it up with some of your favorite flavors and textures. It is a fantastic way to get in the necessary fats and proteins, while having the ability to control any dietary restrictions one may have and limiting your caloric intake.

Take breakfast for example, potentially the most important meal of the day. We always try to find ways to stay full while also putting a cap on the amount of calories that we eat in the morning. Why not add a side of spinach salad or a bed of mixed greens with some olive oil to your meal? Soft-boiled eggs and omelets go great with mixed greens, an excellent early riser breakfast that will keep you satisfied and energized. Kick up any morning salad with some drizzled extra virgin olive oil and/or balsamic vinegar, fresh fruit such as apples or berries, and some nuts. I recommend adding slivered almonds to your salads for texture, taste and added health benefits. A one-ounce portion of almonds (about 23 almonds) offers 6 grams of protein, beneficial fats, and 3.5 grams of dietary fiber. Almonds are among the lowest in calories of tree nuts, while remaining highest for protein, fiber, calcium, Vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin.

Salads for lunch and dinner further increase your freedom for creativity and ingredient options. My personal favorite salad includes mixed greens, arugula, red onions, scallions, chickpeas, slivered almonds in replacement of croutons, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, a hard-boiled egg, feta cheese and avocado. Other great ingredients to throw in are chicken or shrimp, oranges and other fruit, flax seed, asparagus, broccoli and other nuts and seeds.  This salad offers so many tastes and textures, while allowing someone to stay gluten-free, and the possibility of receiving adequate protein from non-animal sources.

Egg is fantastic because it is the highest quality biological protein that we can consume. Removal of the yolk lets you reduce your cholesterol and fat intake. I place avocado very high on the totem pole of appreciated foods. Avocados offer a buttery, full texture and taste to the palate that will leave both your stomach and taste buds satisfied. This heart-healthy fruit offers the body plentiful amounts of  “good” fat, lowers cholesterol, contains cancer fighting properties, and is full of Vitamins E, C, B6, folate, potassium and fiber.

Take a two-week challenge; make it a priority to make sure that a bed of greens accompanies at least two of your meals every day. Once this becomes repetition in your daily routine and you’re feeling great; you will forget why you weren’t doing this all along. Get creative, experiment with your ingredients and enjoy a unique salad during your next meal.

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