Helping you prepare healthy foods in a hurry
Alice Henneman, MS, Registered Dietitian and Extension Educator
University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County
12 Tasty Salad Toppers
Adapted from a July/August 2003 Food Reflections article
Sometimes people think green salad = lettuce = blah. Not so. The only limits to exciting salads are limits of the imagination.
Begin with salad greens. Enhance the eye appeal and nutrition of a salad by adding colorful fruits and vegetables. Keep it light by limiting the amount of salad dressing to about 1 tablespoon per 1 1/2 to 2 cups of greens. Then make the flavor really POP by adding some of the following ingredients. You can either put them atop or mix them in with your salad.
While some of these salad additions are higher in fat than others, just small amounts (about 1 tablespoon) can give extra flavor without too many calories. Also, many provide a nutrition boost! Add from one to three of these flavor accents, depending on how many other ingredients are in your salad.
1. Artichoke hearts: marinated
Enjoy the tangy taste of sliced marinated artichoke hearts in your salad. It's as easy as opening a jar and adding as desired.
2. Cheese: Parmesan
If your experience with Parmesan cheese is limited to shaking it from a can, try using a vegetable peeler to shave about a tablespoon per serving from a block of cheese. Or, sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan on salads. As just a small amount kicks up the flavor, you may find you can afford trying some of the more expensive Parmesan cheeses. Add flavor and bone-building calcium, too!
Add crunch, flavor and fiber with homemade whole grain croutons. Enjoy the recipe at the end of this article.
4. Dried fruit: cherries, cranberries, raisins
Add these dried fruits for their flavor. Benefit from their antioxidants that may help protect against cancer and heart disease.
5. Fresh herbs: basil, chives, dill, parsley
Toss small basil leaves or chopped larger ones in with your greens. Try chopped fresh dill. Add some minced chives or parsley. Start with about a teaspoon of herbs per person and adjust according to taste preference. Herbs boost flavor without increasing calories. Researchers also are finding many culinary herbs (both fresh and dried) have antioxidants that may help protect against such diseases as cancer and heart disease.
6. Fresh fruit: apples and pears
Slice apples with their skins into salads. The skin adds eye appeal and important dietary fiber, as well. Research shows an apple a day may indeed help keep the doctor away by helping reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.
Some commonly available apples that may be especially tasty in salads include Braeburn, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Jonathan, Red Delicious and Winesap.
The juicy sweetness of pear slices, skin included, also tastes great in salads. Pears continue to ripen after they're picked. To determine if a pear is ripe, gently press it at the stem end. Most types yield to pressure when ripe.
To speed the ripening of pears, put them in a ripening bowl or in a loosely closed brown paper bag at room temperature. Or, just set them in a pretty bowl on your counter and enjoy their appearance as they ripen. Plastic bags don't work for ripening. Refrigerate when ripe in an open or a perforated plastic bag in your refrigerator crisper drawer. (If you don't have access to commercial perforated bags, use a sharp object to make several small holes in a regular plastic bag.)
Store fruits in a refrigerator crisper drawer separate from the one in which you store vegetables. Fruits give off ethylene gas which can shorten the storage life of vegetables. Some vegetables give off odors that can be absorbed by fruits and affect their quality.
For more information on handling fresh fruits and vegetables, check "Storing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables for Better Taste" by the University of California, Davis Postharvest Technology Research and Information Center at postharvest.ucdavis.edu/Produce/Storage/FVstorage.pdf and "Proper Care and Handling of Fruits and Vegetables from Purchase" by Penn State University at foodsafety.cas.psu.edu/PDFs/ProprCareFrt=Veg10=31=00.pdf
7. Olives: black or green
Add extra oomph with olives. For ease of eating and to distribute their flavor throughout the salad, pit and slice olives before placing them in your salad (see directions below for pitting olives).
About a tablespoon of olives per serving should be sufficient. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database <www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/index.html>, a tablespoon of canned ripe olives provides about 10 calories.
Experiment with different types for different flavors. For example, many people enjoy the rich flavor of kalamata olives, a black olive frequently found in Greek salad, pasta and pizza recipes. (By the way, did you know olives are a FRUIT?)
8. Nuts: toasted almonds and walnuts
Though almonds are a source of fat and calories, they contain mostly unsaturated fat that may help protect against heart disease. They also provide vitamin E, a nutrient that may be good for your heart. Almonds have about 7 calories apiece.
Likewise, the fat in walnuts is mostly unsaturated. Walnuts also provide heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. A tablespoon or two of walnuts adds just 50 to 100 calories to a meal.
Toast nuts to crisp their texture and bring out their rich aroma and taste. See toasting directions at the end of this article.
For more information about using nuts in recipes, check the International Tree Nut Council's Web site at www.nuthealth.org/consumer/recipebook.pdf
9. Onions: red
Slip thin slices of sweet red onions into salads.
Sliced oranges juice up the flavor of salads and add brightness with their sunny color. Plus, they give you a healthy dose of vitamin C and folate.
11. Sunflower seeds: toasted
Add some vitamin E by tossing a tablespoon of sunflower seeds per serving into salads. One tablespoon provides about 50 calories and mostly unsaturated fat. Toast them for extra flavor -- directions are given at the end of this article.
Thinly slice radishes and sprinkle into salads for their crisp texture and peppery flavor.
If the leafy radish tops are attached, remove them before storing. Radishes don't keep as well if their tops are left on. Store unwashed radishes in an open or perforated plastic bag in a refrigerator crisper drawer that is separate from the one in which you store fruits. Wash radishes and trim their roots just before using.
(Here's a fun fact on radishes from aboutproduce.com -- Radishes were so highly esteemed by the ancient Greeks that they made small gold replicas of them in connection with Apollo worship.)
Homemade Whole Wheat Croutons
* If desired, use a low sodium bread; check with your grocery store or local health food stores as to availability in your area.
Toasted Nuts or Sunflower Seeds
NOTE: The first time you try toasting nuts or seeds, it's better to err on the side of under-toasting than over-toasting. As nuts and seeds toast, you'll notice a change in their fragrance as well as their color.
Stove-top toasting works well for small batches of nuts. With this method, the parts of the nuts or seeds touching the skillet may become darkest, unlike the oven method where the nuts/seeds become more of an overall golden color.
Storing Toasted Nuts and Sunflower Seeds
Rather than toast just a handful of nuts or seeds for one meal, make extra for later use. Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use within 1 to 2 weeks for best quality.
For more information about preparing healthy meals, contact your local University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension Office; for the location of the office nearest you, click here. For a listing of Cooperative Extension Offices throughout the United States, click here.
This Site |