National Salad Month

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From the beginning of our existence, humans have waited avidly through long winter months for the first fresh, nourishing greens of spring. Now that we can have salads all year long, you would think most Americans would embrace them happily, given the many benefits these fresh, antioxidant-packed vegetable ensembles have to offer. May is National Salad Month, inviting us to do just thatnot only this month, but all year long.

What is a salad?

A wide range of dishes can be referred to as salads, from lighter vegetable combinations to accompany a meal, like mixed baby greens drizzled in vinaigrette, to heavier salads of pasta, beans or grains, to entrée salads incorporating meat, poultry, or seafoodsuch as Taco salads, crab or shrimp Louie’s, hearty Greek salads and more. And fruit salads open up another whole realm. Salad possibilities are virtually endless.

Where did salad come from?

The salad has a long and honored history, with origins tracing back centuries to simple vegetable dishes of the Roman Empire, whenaccording to food historiansmixed greens were enjoyed with oil and vinegar. Salads gained popularity in the U.S. during the late 19th century. Virtually all cultures have some traditional version on the salad theme, such as Japanese seaweed salad and Korean cabbage kimchee.

Are salads always healthy?

While salads are generally regarded as healthy, that depends on what they consist of. Have you taken a close look at a salad bar lately? You can easily consume an entire days worth of calories and saturated fat in one fell swoop if you’re overly generous with the cheese, croutons, bacon bits, olives, dried fruit and nuts, and other toppings on offer. Then, we factor in the dressings, which can range from light flavor accents to fat-laden, dense, mayo-based concoctions.

What’s the perfect salad?

Arguably, the perfect salad is delicious, satisfying, and healthy. The trick is to consider vegetables and lean protein first, then add rich accoutrements judiciously. For example, start with a bed of mixed greens, then top with whatever additional veggies you like: cucumbers, tomatoes, mushrooms, beets, carrots, celery, red cabbage, broccoli, etc. Next, incorporate lean protein─like grilled chicken, tofu, beans, hardboiled egg, or seafoodthen sprinkle on tasty toppings in moderation, such as diced avocado, Greek olives, whole grain croutons, sunflower seeds, etc. and you have a nutrient-packed, flavorful meal with staying power.

How should you dress?

Your dressing choice can virtually make or break the healthy nature of your salad. If you use full-fat Ranch, Thousand Island or Blue Cheese, opt for very small doses. Better yet, boost flavor with creative, low-fat innovations like Citrus Vinaigrette, Orange-Sesame, Honey-Cumin, Chili & Lime, Tarragon Buttermilk, Raspberry Dijon, or Fresh Herb Ranch. For dozens more tasty, skinny dressing options, visit: http://www.lowfatlifestyle.com/sauces_dressings/saucesanddressingsindex.htm

Your Farmer’s Market awaitsjust bring your appetite. Enjoy!

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