3 Ways to Make Salads an Even Healthier Part of Your Life

To make sure we’re doing everything we can to help you, I ask dozens of home cooks every single day, “What do you struggle with in the kitchen?” and I’ve received hundreds of heartfelt answers.

Even though everyone’s situation is unique, I’ve noticed a lot of common goals and struggles. Instead of just answering all these emails individually, I wanted to start answering these questions in a new ‘Dear Cook Smarts’ video series too. Today, I’m super excited to announce our inaugural episode answering a question I see all the time: “How do I cook and eat healthy?”

There are so many ways to cook healthy so we’ll cover this topic over a series of posts. Today I’m focusing on everyone’s favorite first course, the salad (alright, maybe it’s not your favorite but it sure is healthier than fried calamari!). Even if you’re already eating leafy greens regularly, I’ve got three ways to make salads an even healthier part of your life.

Watch the video or scroll on below (where you’ll find a free recipe and an awesome new infographic):

1. Begin your day with a salad:

Get Cook Smarts breakfast salad recipe

I know it might seem weird to eat salad for breakfast, but it’s one of my favorite ways to fuel up. While I love carbs, having a carb-heavy breakfast (especially white carbs) is not the best way to wake your body up. Salads on the other hand are full of high-fiber, low-glycemic ingredients that will help you feel satiated for longer and energetically power through to lunch. Plus a lot of great breakfast foods make great salad ingredients. Click here to get our free ‘Breakfast Salad’ recipe.

2. Begin your meal with the salad:

Even if you can’t begin your day with a salad, try to begin lunch or dinner with a salad. Again, since salad ingredients are full of fiber and water, it causes you to feel full so you’ll likely tackle your main course with a little less gusto. If you’re looking to lose weight, this is a great way to eat a little bit less.

3. Make your own dressing:

As a kid, I would have been happy to drink Hidden Valley ranch dressing out of a sippy cup, and I didn’t discover that salad dressing could be homemade until a college summer abroad in Italy. Imagine my culture shock when server after server kept bringing me bottles of oil and vinegar instead of a salad smothered in creamy mayo and sour cream based ranch.

I adapted and in the 12 years since Italy, I haven’t purchased one bottle of dressing. It was just so much more fun making my own, and it freed me from worrying about expiration dates, ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce, and bottles cluttering precious fridge space. Instead, I started building a collection of vinegars which regularly consists of balsamic, red wine, apple cider and rice, which is plenty for a variety of homemade vinaigrettes.

To help you ditch the bottle salad dressings, we created this easy-to-use infographic to get you inspired. Use our cooking formula as a start, and then get creative from there! Just remember to taste, taste, taste until you get the mix of flavors that bring your salad to life!

Cooking Formulas for Salad Vinaigrettes via @cooksmarts #infographic
Infographic created by S.B. Lattin Design

For more smarts

To check out more of our salad recipes, click here.

If you’ve got some great salad ideas, share them with the rest of the Cook Smarts community down in the comments below!

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  1. Jenn says

    Count me among the salad obsessed!

    My fave tip for homemade dressings (because my dishwasher is also my partner) is to use a lidded jam jar filled with all the components of the dressing in place of a whisk and bowl to blend. It emulsifies quickly with a stiff shake, gets the aggro out at the end of the day, and it’s kind of cathartic to watch the sweetener or dijon meld into the dressing. Plus if you have any leftover dressing, it stays in the fridge for a week or so–just take the labels off the jar so you don’t get really excited about the cornucopia of jam in your fridge.

  2. says

    I like the idea of a mix-and-match to help folks formulate dressings that will taste better than purchased dressings (and more closely match dinner). But the proportions are wrong.

    Classic vinaigrette uses 3:1 ratio of oil to water-soluble components. The 2:1 recommended here won’t be as viscous and 30% acid will be too tart.

    I usually dilute my acid if it’s a strong acid like lemon juice or vinegar.

    Also would recommend an emulsifier to keep the oil and water-soluble components from separating quickly. Egg yolk is the most powerful emulsifier (you need just a few drops of it!) but mayonnaise (just 1/2 teaspoon or so) is nearly as effective. Mustard is a flavorful emulsifier. Not as effective as mayo but good enough.

    Finally, would recommend always including salt (unless you’re using a salty ingredient such as soy sauce). Not a lot — it doesn’t need to taste salty; but salt amps up flavors.

    • says

      Thanks so much for commenting – all great points! We definitely started out following the 3:1 rule but have found that 2:1 to work quite well with a good whisk! Clearly, the best ratio is just to drizzle and whisk until it gets thick, right? :) We offer a few emulsifiers in our 10% section (mayo would be good to add to the list – thx for mentioning that!) and list salt & pepper or even a sweetener in our ‘+ Standard Seasoning’ section to help balance the acidity. Hope that helps clarify!

  3. Robin says

    I can’t believe you list sesame oil in the “Oils” section. Sesame oil should be used for flavoring only (the 10% section). No way would a dressing made with 60% sesame oil be edible.

    A tablespoon or two of sesame oil will do ‘ya.

    • says

      Hi Robin, Thanks so much for commenting. You are completely right, toasted sesame oil (the darker one) would be a terrible oil base for salad dressing. A tiny bit of that goes a long way. We’re referring to light sesame oil – or the stuff that is usually just labeled ‘sesame oil‘ which is comparable to an olive oil. Something like this. Hope that helps clear up the confusion.

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