Healthy grab-and-go meals are an easy and healthy cost-effective alternative to eating out on your lunch break. Eating salad for meals is one step to keep you on track to maintain your goal weight. With a large variety of ingredients and flavors to choose from, salad jars are a great way to have a meal loaded with nutritious vitamins and minerals.
As with any dish, it can be easy to add items that are higher in calories. To keep your salads lower in calories, choose your options wisely and use a measuring cup to keep your layers light and full. The best part about making a salad in a jar is creating a tasty masterpiece with all the ingredients that you enjoy the most!
Let’s make your salad in a jar!
Start by measuring and adding the dressing first into your jar. Adding 1-2 tablespoons of dressing to your salad not only provides flavors to your salad, it also helps you feel fuller and more satisfied. Also, the fat in salad dressings and avocados helps improve the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K from your salad vegetables. Try making your own vinaigrette with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar to give a fresh splash to any mix of vegetables and cut down on added sugar from purchased dressings.
- Non-Absorbent (Hard) Vegetables
Add veggies that will not absorb all the dressing and will be a good base. Try vegetables such as: bell peppers, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, cucumbers, jicama, onions, olives, zucchini, or corn.
- Absorbent (Soft) Fruit and Vegetables
Now we are having some fun! The options are limitless. Load in the layers of vegetables and create your flavor. You can choose from avocado, beets, mushrooms, peas, tomatoes, asparagus, radish, cooked eggplant, and fresh herbs such as cilantro, dill, or parsley. You can even add in fruits to your salad such as berries, peaches, pears and apples.
- Protein and Cheese
Add some protein to your salad! Our bodies need protein to build muscle, help with cell regeneration, and increase our immune system. Choose from cooked beef, chicken, pork, hardboiled eggs, or seafood such as salmon. Plant-based proteins such as beans, edamame, and tofu are also tasty sources of protein. Cheese is another source of protein, but be aware that it can be high in sodium and fat when added in larger amounts. Use low-fat, reduced-fat, or part-skim varieties of cheese such as mozzarella, goat, reduced-fat feta, blue, or string cheeses.
- Grains, Seeds, and Nuts
Adding whole grains to your salad helps keep you feeling full for a longer time. Choose from whole grains such as brown rice, hominy, or whole wheat pasta. Quinoa is another grain option because it is a complete protein. Because it is gluten-free, quinoa can also be used by those who need to follow gluten-free diets!
Nuts are good to have in salads because they have heart-healthy fats and are good sources of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. For a good crunch in your salad, measure out a serving of one ounce or 1/3 cup for almonds, pecans, walnuts, or even pistachios.
Don’t forget to add some seeds…sunflower or pumpkin seeds, that is.
Dark, green leafy greens offer plenty of the beta-carotene and vitamin C. The darker the leaves, the more nutrient-rich they are. Some greens provide folate, potassium and fiber. Leafy greens are exceptionally low in calories and have very little fat. Leafy greens are your last layer of freshness, so pack it in! Add a mix of spinach, arugula, Romaine, kale, spring mix, baby beet greens, watercress, radicchio, or iceberg (Romaine has 7 times more vitamin A & C than iceberg!).
Now your salad in a jar is complete and looks beautiful! Almost too good to eat! Tighten the seal and store in the refrigerator for no more than 3 days. When you are ready to eat, pour out of the jar on your plate and enjoy. You even get to reuse your jar for another salad. Remember, it’s all about the layers!