STOP Eating SALAD!

Last week, I posted on Facebook that I am the world’s worst when it comes to taking pics of my meals because, most often, my meals are salads. I mean, even in winter, I eat salads for lunch almost exclusively and most often for dinner, as well. Now, before you feel sorry for me or think I must feel deprived or at least live the world’s most boring food life, I want you to know that I LOVE eating salads! Rather than making me feel sad or boring or deprived, they have the power to make me feel empowered, happy and free.

I realize how weird it must sound to learn that salads make me feel that way, but let me explain. Knowing what’s on my menu most days frees up my mind for all sorts of other things that I need to get done. In this way, salads are not only a health-booster, but also a time-management tool (you have likely heard of this where Steve Jobs and Arianna Huffington suggested “uniforms” at work, where employees don’t waste precious time making clothing decisions). I realize that all resources are limited, and my time is the most valuable. If I can plan ahead so that I don’t need to make decisions around my food, I can get more done in the same amount of time. Plus, I am properly nourished so that I am giving my body what it needs to thrive. By doing so, I end up feeling my best, too. And feeling my best makes me happy. Feeling happy is such a worthy goal, for me. You see, I spent a long time feeling everything BUT happy, so when I can do things in my day-to-day life–easy things, like making salads–to help me feel happiest, I tend to do these things.

I explained in my Facebook post that I feel free when I allow “automaticity” to work its magic in my life (think of any habit—like brushing teeth—that requires almost no brain power or convincing). I don’t have to overthink my decision–I know I am having a salad for lunch and I have made it and I am looking forward to it. So I eat it. Automaticity has SAVED me in many food emergencies. When I have prepared my salad, I don’t allow myself to get overly hungry. I eat my big, fat, yummy salad before cravings for carbs–muffins, bagels, pizza, sandwiches, etc.–hit. And after eating my delicious lunch, I feel incredibly happy and energized and empowered and free.

And I want YOU to feel the same.

So, that is why I am suggesting that YOU STOP EATING SALADS!

Allow me to explain.

As you know, I don’t count calories, but the reason I am suggesting to STOP EATING SALADS is because I want you to beware! Not all salads are created equal. Unless you make your own or order it specifically, salads can contain ingredients you don’t want to get if you are planning on eating them to boost your immunity and vitality. Beware of cheese, bacon, creamy dressings, croutons, dried fruit and tortilla chips, among other common salad toppers. These add calories while lacking real nutrition.

Whenever you see “Ambrosia” or marshmallow next to the word “salad”, remember that it is ACTUALLY DESSERT, as is anything that is gelatenized with jiggly fruit inside. I mean, this stuff might be TASTY, but it doesn’t really check the necessary boxes for me to feel my best. Same goes for potato, macaroni, meat salad (yes, it’s a thing), and many coleslaw salads…they typically contain a bunch of ingredients that won’t leave you feeling too hot.

I have met so many people who struggle with their diet and believe they are eating healthy when they order the Caesar salad over the chicken sandwich (which could be ordered with a salad and enjoyed without the bun) because they believed they were making the “healthier” choice. I get it! It can be really hard to know what to look for, and let’s be honest, we can’t really trust restaurants–they are in it to hook us on taste, not to improve our health. Restaurants are notorious for making salads that register higher on the caloric scale than the burger and fries, so you definitely have to be careful when dining out. 

When I do order a salad at a restaurant, I make sure that what I am ordering is indeed a green salad with protein on top, and I like having the dressing on the side so that I can control how much I use (I just don’t like how soggy my salad gets when it comes pre-dressed).

When making my salads at home, I don’t overthink it. But a few boxes definitely have to be checked. Boxes like HEALTHY and TASTY and EASY. Because if I’m eating anyway, I like to make it healthy. And just because it’s healthy, doesn’t mean it can’t be tasty! In fact, I actually CRAVE salads and enjoy them immensely.. And it’s definitely got to be easy or else I won’t stick with it over time (and eating salads is a habit I enjoy in my life and want YOU to enjoy, too).

So, when I’m making salads at home, my “process” is usually this:

  1. “What protein do I have on hand?” If I don’t have any leftover meat, I go to tinned salmon or tuna, hard boiled eggs or “pulses” (beans/legumes). I tend to make more than I need when cooking animal protein. A batch of chicken breasts can last a few days. Or half a salmon. Or a dozen hard boiled eggs. Why make for just one meal when it’s no added work to make more? Protein is a powerhouse when it comes to satiety. And there is nothing like it to quell a sugar craving later in the day. Struggle with late-night sugar cravings? Start your day with protein and make sure you eat some at each main meal (and you don’t need much!). 3-4 ounces of cooked meat, 2-3 eggs, or 1/2 cup of pulses is generally enough protein in your diet.
  2. “What greens do I have?” I typically like using bitter greens like arugula, endive, radicchio and kale because eating bitter foods helps improve my digestion. If you aren’t ready for bitter yet, spinach, leaf lettuce, romaine and any other greens work just fine. All of us, but especially those who struggle with digestion (gas, bloating, IBS, diarrhea, constipation), can benefit from adding more food-based probiotics (fermented foods) into our diets. On top of a salad is a great place to add kimchi, sauerkraut or even a dressing made from kefir. You can also take digestive enzymes (found at your local health food store) 15 minutes before your meals to improve digestion, because remember–it’s not about what we eat, but rather what we absorb.
  3. “What veggies do I have? I like using leftover grilled veggies as a salad topper or else I pre-chop my veggies and store them in containers for easy assembly. Some friends shared their tips for storing chopped veggies in a container with a piece of dry paper towel–once it becomes damp, they replace. This method keeps peppers and cucumber slices (and everything else) from getting slimy–brilliant! A fun way to make your salads more interesting is to cut the veggies in various ways. Sometimes I slice the zucchini on a diagonal. Sometimes I use a potato peeler to get ribbons. Sometimes I spiralize it. Sometimes it’s roasted. You get the idea. Vegetables are our natural multi-vitamin, so we want to eat all sorts of veggies to get everything we need. Get out of a veggie rut and eat all the colours of the rainbow!
  4. What FAT do I have? I know that for some, eating fat still feels like an unforgivable sin, but that’s only because we’ve been conditioned to fear fat for the last 4 decades or so. But as we’ve talked about before, our bodies and our brains NEED fat! Make friends with avocados. Enjoy walnuts, salmon, grass-fed beef and sustainable meat products, nuts and seeds. Enjoy a dressing made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) or make a dressing from full fat Greek yogurt. Fat not only satiates us and fuels our precious brains (did you know your brain is 60% FAT?), it helps create healthy cell walls that can metabolize insulin more efficiently, keeping our blood sugar stable (and reducing our sugar cravings). Reducing our sugar intake is a key to brain health (Alzheimer’s is sometimes dubbed Type 3 diabetes) as well as all other factors of our health. Eating salads not only makes it easy to increase my healthy fats, it helps me reduce the amount of sugar (in the form of carbs) I eat on a daily basis.
  5. “What dressing do I have?” I often skip dressing altogether; I just feel that the combo of veggies and protein tastes fabulous and I don’t always want to mess with that IF I have some kind of fat on my plate. If not, I make sure I include some dressing, and I typically make an easy vinaigrette out of EVOO, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt & pepper. Or, fresh lemon juice and EVOO with a little garlic, salt and pepper and sometimes a bit of Dijon for tang and creaminess. I tend to avoid store-bought, but when I do, I read the ingredients list and opt for those with very few ingredients and nothing I can’t pronounce.

Once I’ve got all of my ingredients, I arrange my greens, top with my veggies and finish with the protein and dressing. That’s it! With a little preparation and cooking ahead of time, lunch can literally be done in under 3 minutes.

Eating salads has simplified things for me but that doesn’t mean my food life is boring! No way. I eat salads for lunch and dinner, say, 75%-80% of the time. That leaves 20%-25% of the time for all sorts of other meals. And what’s awesome is that when I DO go out for pizza or Chinese or pasta or whatever, I am enjoying every single bite: NO GUILT. I mean, why would I feel guilty when I have done SO much good for my body? I wouldn’t. I can have a treat now and then, for sure. THIS is how I feel free. And while I believe that guilt is a useless emotion, I still feel it when I am acting out of alignment. Eating junk food for days and weeks on end is out of alignment for me in a fundamental way. When I eat like that, I know I am dealing with something big.

It’s when I go off my regular eating plan for any real length of time that I start to feel bad about my choices. If it goes on long enough, I can always point to pain or shame that I am trying to avoid. I wonder if you can relate. For me, the work comes in no longer numbing with food but, instead, endeavouring to heal the deeper issue while honouring the most precious gift I will ever receive. In this way, I am using my body as a tool towards greater self-love. 

So, no, I never, ever feel deprived when chowing down on my big, fat, juicy, delicious salad. If you really think about it, junk “food” is the most boring food of all. Just look at it! All beige and brown and grey. REAL food is RED and ORANGE and YELLOW and GREEN and PURPLE and every colour and every shade in between. And I love that. I love knowing that I am giving my body the nutrients it needs to thrive every day. And there is no greater gift I can offer my body than the gift of greater nutrients. Nothing compares to that. Eating my vitamins and minerals. Eating the sun. Eating the earth. Eating LIFE. I really do get a kick out of it! I love living and eating this way.

And THAT helps me feel empowered, happy and free. 

In my work, I meet clients who want to lose weight, feel better, enjoy cooking and eating at home more, and generally want to feel lighter and more energized. When I suggest eating salads every day, they are often worried they will get bored, hence abandoning their plan. I understand that feeling, but what’s great about salads is that the combinations and permutations are limitless! There is simply no need to get bored. Eating salad still requires planning, preparing, cooking and assembling, but it breaks it down into the five steps listed above. As long as you’ve got some protein, some greens, some veggies, a little fat and maybe some dressing, you’re all set. But there are all sorts of ways to spruce up your salad to make it even tastier:

Fruit and nuts: these add texture and flavour. Think sliced peaches and roasted almonds or grapefruit with raw cashews or strawberries with toasted pecans. In summer, it’s fun to shop local and enjoy what’s being grown in your own backyard (literally and figuratively!)

Grilled veggies and a little goat cheese: this combo tastes amazing together and usually means I need only a drizzle of EVOO and a pinch of salt and pepper to top it off. I like to roast a batch or two of veggies in the oven and eat with dinner, then store as leftovers for salads as they taste great served cold. Think grilled endive, fennel, carrots, sweet potato, cauliflower, asparagus, Brussels sprouts…

Fresh herbs: these add beautiful colour and flavor to salads. Think tomatoes and basil; chickpeas and rosemary; mushrooms and thyme; dill & lemon; avocados and sage…

Salad Bowls: Many restaurants are now carrying “Buddha Bowls” AKA “glory” or “hippie” bowls, which are essentially salads with a little more oomph! They are hearty, filling dishes made of various greens, raw or roasted veggies, beans and a whole grain like quinoa or brown rice. You can also include toppings like nuts, seeds and dressings for added texture and flavour. They are most commonly served up vegetarian, but you can add animal protein if you prefer. Order these at restaurants or try making your own!

Caprese Salad: Sliced tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella is an Italian salad called “Caprese” and is one of my favourite salad toppers. I like to serve some on top of a heaping pile of greens with a drizzle of EVOO. Serve with some sliced hard-boiled egg or some leftover chickpea salad to make it a meal.

Leftover steak: If you ate steak last night, hopefully you made extra! Slice up leftovers and then make a dressing with with a little Greek yogurt, some lemon juice, salt & pepper and a bit of horseradish mixed in, and serve over bitter greens and roasted fennel, Brussels sprouts and carrots (or any roasted veggie–I like making batches of big mixes). Or maybe add a little goat cheese for a bit of tang instead of the horseradish. No matter how you like it, leftover steak on a salad is delicious and tastes great served cold.

Avocado and Tomato: I like adding a few slices of avocado to many of my salads, but if I want to get more creative, I can make an easy “almost-guacamole” by roughly chopping avocado with tomato and seasoning it with a little salt and pepper. Or, I can make a full blown guac and put a dollop on top of my salad. It’s great if you have a few julienned veggies (sticks) so you can use the guacamole as a dip.

As you can see, the sky is the limit as you explore all sorts of ways to add more veggies into your day. I find it unfortunate that many of us go through our entire day on zero vegetables until we get to dinner and force back those token pieces of steamed broccoli. We are to be consuming farrrr more fiber than we are currently, and in episode 22 of Living Your Life With Lianne Laing, Lianne talks with my dear friend and holistic nutritionist, Natasha Villeneuve. Natasha shares just HOW fiber-deficient we are, and she shares TONS of other info and offers great tips, so I hope you check it out. 🙂

The best way I know how to affect my health in the long-term is to make choices–today–that improve my health in the short term. While it didn’t happen overnight, I became someone who eats salads every day over time and through repetition. It all started when I hit my rock bottom and I was forced to change my entire life. I changed my mindset and began actively thinking about what I truly wanted in my life, and every one of my answers required that I be living…here…on earth. And to do that, I need time.

I need time on the earth to get it all done.

And that’s all I needed to DECIDE that I am the kind of person who–among other healthy habits–eats salads…like, every day. Because I want to give myself the best shot at being able to do the things I want to do and experience the people and places I want to experience.

Because I want to live a long and vibrant life.

Because I want to love my life one bite at a time.

Because I want the same for you.

 

P.S. If you’d like to start adding in even more healthy habits, you might enjoy my 14 Days of Wellness. Simply enter your name and email address (over on the right). It’s free, with no diets, products, challenges or catches (you’ll just start getting a Tuesday email from me and you can unsubscribe at any time). I’d love to stay connected. xo

 

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