It’s no secret that we all grow old, that’s just how our life works. Slowly but surely, aging creeps up on all of us. The process is inescapable and the older we get, the more we notice the changes our body undergo. Bones become brittle, teeth become fragile, muscles slowly weaken, skin loses elasticity that one day, you’ll find yourself looking in front of the mirror and the reflection staring back is unrecognizable. But, one of the most problematic effects is on the gut function. A decline in our digestive activity results in severe health ramifications and nutritional deficiencies that affect us earlier in life than expected. That is why may health studies and organizations emphasize the importance of paying attention to what we eat, to being more active, and make sure to avoid harmful habits like smoking and doing drugs. It is imperative that we take care of the body and be mindful of what we eat as a preventive measure for future illnesses.

A Healthy Choice

One should start thinking about making healthy changes to what we eat, and nutritional coaching can help.

Fruits and vegetables are good dietary sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. There are numerous benefits. For one, they allow fast skin regeneration thus maintaining skin suppleness leaving us looking healthy and beautiful. Also, fruits and veggies stay longer in our stomach and help our stomach feel full longer. The fibers they contain help increase our metabolism, leading to more fats burned thus eventually assisting in losing weight.

But probably the most notable benefit is the fact that they provide us with a high amount of antioxidants — chemical compounds that help prevent the oxidation process that produces harmful substances called free radicals. When our body breaks down processed food, this causes chemical reactions that result to free radicals. Eventually they build-up in our body, slowly destroying our cells and predisposes us to life-threatening conditions like cancer.  

Therefore, taking that leap to eating a plant-based diet is crucial and could immensely improve our quality of life!

Take the First Step

It is recommended that fruits and vegetables should comprise one-third of your daily meals. If you’re aiming for weight loss, increase it to one half of your meal portion.

What better way to get started that incorporating a meal course jam-packed with the benefits you need- salads!

A word of caution though! Before eating salads, it’s important that you should change your eating habits slowly. This is to help your body and gut adjust to the new changes to avoid stomach discomforts such as bloating and excessive gassing.

To start, one suggestion is to have a food journal. It’s a way for you to track what you eat and is best done especially when starting out in identifying the quality of food you eat on a daily basis. Also, if your goal is to start shedding a few pounds, a daily food log is a wonderful weight-loss aid. There are a lot of ways to approach food tracking but to give you an idea, these three simple but important points might help:

  • Be visual: Buy a notebook or take advantage of downloadable apps, even take pictures to help you compare the amount of food you eat daily.
  • Be detailed: Record your portions. Note down your cravings and the time of the day when you usually eat your meals.
  • Be mindful: Adapting this new habit consistently will surely help you make better health choices.

Get to Know Your Salads

A salad is a ready-to-eat dish in with small portions of raw or cooked food, usually vegetables, that sometimes mixed with fruits, meats, and other ingredients. There are typically accompanied with dressing and sauce to help flavor it and served either chilled or at ambient temperature.

Types of Salad

There are numerous types of salad out there, but to introduce the basics, below is a simple category of salads from theculinarycook.com:

  1. Green/Tossed salads – salads that are usually composed of a mixture of vegetables mixed with garnishes (tomatoes, onions, cucumber) Ex. Caesar salad.
  2. Composed dishes – layered salads, which are carefully constructed with base, body, garnish and dressing Ex. Cobb Salad
  3. Bound salads – salads added with high-protein ingredients Ex. Tuna Salad or Chicken Salad
  4. Starchy salad – salads comprised of potatoes or pasta, also called ‘Farinaceous salad’.

For this article, let’s focus on the healthier type which is the green salad. Since salads are mainly comprised of green, leafy vegetables, let’s look at the usual varieties used in salads:

Common Types of Veggies

Iceberg Lettuce

Also called crisphead lettuce, it has a pale green color and is known for its mild flavor. It’s firm, crunchy texture, will contribute a pleasant munch to salads. This leafy green is a good source of fiber, potassium, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and iron. It has relatively few calories by weight because of its high water content.

Recipe ideas:  

Classic wedge salad

Lettuce wrap

Romaine Lettuce

This variety has deep green, long leaves appearance with a crisp texture and deep taste. It is known to have very low-calorie content and high water volume, an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K, folate, and molybdenum. Romaine lettuce is also a very good source of dietary fiber, minerals such as manganese, potassium, copper,  iron, and vitamins such as biotin, vitamin B1, beta carotene and vitamin C.

Recipe ideas:  

Grilled Romaine Lettuce

Classic Tossed Salad

Radicchio

Radicchio has a unique appearance which looks like a red cabbage with wine-red leaves. It is actually related to the chicory family than lettuces family. It has a pungent with a mildly bitter taste and has a chewy texture which packs a lot of flavor. It’s known benefits include increasing protein, fat, and carbohydrates metabolism through its vitamin B content (thiamine, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, folic acid). Radicchio is also rich in vitamin C, boosting the immune system and fighting harmful environmental substances.

Recipe ideas:

Radicchio recipes

Kale

This cruciferous veggie is considered wild compared to other domesticated types of cabbages  (etc. broccoli, and Brussels sprouts). It has small curly, smooth green or purple leaves with fibrous stems. Kale has a mild earthy taste high with very high water content (84%), antioxidants and vitamin C, making it one of the healthiest choices for salads.

Recipe ideas:

Easy Garlic Kale

Sautéed Kale Recipe

Spinach

Spinach has medium to bright green with oval-shaped leaves. It has a mildly sweet taste and becomes more acidic in it’s cooked form. Known to be high in iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium, it has superb benefits that include cleansing your gut and maintain bone health.

Recipe ideas:

Buttered Spinach with Vinegar

Spinach Lasagna

Watercress

A known superfood and usually used as a garnish, this delicious aquatic veggie has a hot peppery, pungent taste that helps elevate your salad. Just like the other greens mentioned, watercress is very nutritious. It is high in antioxidants and low in calories that can aid in losing weight.

Recipe ideas:

Bean, Tomato, and Watercress salad

Turkey Sandwich with Watercress and Apple

Now that we’re familiar with the veggies, let’s look at options for dressing to give your salads an extra boost, especially if your still not used to the earthy taste of salads.

Salad dressing options:

  • Vinaigrette Dressings

Magic formula: 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil plus salt and pepper to taste

This simple recipe by Elizabeth Rider is an easy fix recipe to start!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup extra balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix all these ingredients in a container with lid and shake vigorously. Serve with your salad.

  • Mayonnaise-Based Dressings

This Creamy Mayonnaise Dressing contains home ingredients that are easy to find. You do need a food processor to achieve that frothy texture.

Points to Remember

  • Eating salads should still provide you with a complete diet of carbohydrates, proteins, and fat. Incorporate meals that cover these important nutrients to your salad.
  • If you can always choose the healthiest way to prepare your salads. Try to experiment with your ingredients, like adding healthy fats and low-sugar fruits. Choose dark-colored lettuces and opt to grill or steam your meats instead of frying.
  • When starting out, remind yourself to not be too consumed with the whole healthy eating process. To achieve your long-term goals, it’s important to remember that real change takes time! Just enjoy your new diet regimen and even reward yourself once in a while when achieving daily goals.  

Ready To Change Your Life?

Remember that it’s not always going to be easy, so having the help of a nutritional consultant might be what you need. Click here to see how we can help.