How to Make Healthy Salads for Lunch + Arugula & Squash Salad
Hello Food Lifers! For those of you who follow my Insta stories, you know I’m all about the lunch meal prep. Having a delicious and nutritious lunch just makes my work day better. Today’s post and recipe is all about how to make a healthy salad for lunch. The trick is to make a salad that is both delicious and filling, and has enough heft to it to keep you feeling full until your afternoon snack.
How to make a healthy salad for lunch? Here’s how …
1. Leaves! 1 - 2 cups leafy green vegetable.
Start with some sort of dark green leafy vegetable, about 1 - 2 cups. This will make the bulk of your salad, and packs a nutrition punch. Loaded with antioxidants, B vitamins, and fibre, a diet with leafy greens has been shown to reduce risk of cancer, heart disease, and dementia. Some examples are:
Greens of any vegetable, such as beets or turnips
2. Carbs! 1/2 cup of a grain or starchy vegetable.
With the low carb/keto craze, it may be tempting to cut the carbs out of your salad to promote weight loss. I say – don’t skip it! Whole grains and starchy vegetables contain vitamins and fibre, and are a healthy part of any diet. Also, the addition of a more nutritious carbohydrate to your salad will help you feel full, and may stop you from reaching for the office donuts later. Some ideas for carbohydrates are:
Forbidden rice (something that was pretty new to me, read about it here!)
Roasted sweet potato
Any short grain pasta, such as orzo
3. Protein! 1/4 cup to 3/4 cup protein.
Protein is a key ingredient when building a salad, or any meal for that matter. Research has shown that eating at least 20 g protein per meal helps maintain muscle mass in younger and older adults. Keep in mind there is no benefit to eating more than 30 g protein at a meal, as our body tends to convert this protein into carbohydrate. Protein is also important for helping us feel full and satisfied. Some protein ideas, and serving sizes are:
Tofu (I like mine sautéed until crispy, or smoked) – 1/2 cup
Beans or legumes – 3/4 cup
Chopped or shredded meat – 1/2 cup
Nuts or seeds – 1/4 cup
Cheese or vegan cheese – 1/4 cup (I love to do cheese and nuts for an amazing salad)
4. Don’t forget the fat! 1 - 2 tablespoons.
Don’t skip the dressing! Instead of thinking about cutting down on fat, focus on choosing the right kind of fat. Unsaturated fats can help lower our risk of heart disease, and can be anti-inflammatory. The best choice for dressing is to make your own by mixing 2 parts oil and 1 part vinegar or lemon juice, as well as other seasonings like herbs, hot sauce, or mustard. Some healthy oils to use in your salad are:
Walnut or almond oil
5. Add any extra vegetable you’d like! Tomatoes, roasted squash, cucumbers, peppers, etc. If it’s a vegetable, toss it in.
There you have it – now you know how to make a healthy salad for lunch.
Putting it all together – assemble everything except the dressing and nuts (if using) in advance, and store in the refrigerator in a sealed container. Add the dressing and nuts right before you eat, to prevent the lettuce from getting soggy and the nuts from losing their crunch. Yum!
Arugula & Squash Salad with Gorgonzola
For the salad:
1 butternut squash, peeled and diced to 2 cm (1 inch) squares
Olive oil, enough to lightly coat the squash, about 2 tablespoons
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup uncooked orzo
6 cups arugula
1 cup crumbled gorgonzola, or other blue cheese (may substitute goat cheese if you’re not a blue cheese person)
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
For the dressing:
1 small shallot, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 375⁰F. In a large bowl, toss the chopped squash with olive oil. Spread the squash out in an even layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Roast, stirring every 15 minutes, until just starting to brown on the edges and the squash pierces easily with a fork. Set aside to cool.
While the squash is roasting, bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add the orzo and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain, and set aside to cool.
To make the salad dressing, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
Once the squash and orzo have cooled slightly, assemble the salad in a large bowl by adding all of the salad ingredients, and then toss in the dressing. Serve immediately.
For lunches: This recipe makes enough for four lunches. I roast the squash and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I make the dressing and divide it into four small containers with a good seal. Each morning, I cook 1/4 cup orzo, allow it to cool slightly, and then assemble the salad. I dress the salad right before I eat it.