I was not aware until I heard it from my buddy Bob at Dole. May is National Salad Month. Lettuce celebrate!
I’m reminded of a story a friend told me several years ago. Her family was visiting her small hometown and visited a local restaurant for lunch. The limited menu featured two salads: regular and deluxe.
“What’s the difference between the regular salad and the deluxe?” she asked her server.
Without looking up from her notepad, the woman answered, “Tomato.”
Lettuce and tomato is a good start for any salad. But what really makes a salad a salad, I was surprised to hear, is the dressing. In fact, National Salad Month was first sponsored in 1992 by the Association for Dressings and Sauces. And according to culinary experts at allrecipes.com, if it’s dressed, you can call it a salad.
That doesn’t mean all salads are the same nutritionally, however. Even the best potato salad deserves a hint of at least one other color besides white. And while we think of a salad as something made with greens and other vegetables, it can also be a mixture of other ingredients, including fruit, pasta, chicken or tuna.
Think about this when you’re throwing ingredients into a salad: Each natural color in veggies and fruit signals the presence of specific phytonutrients that protect our cells and strengthen our immune system. Best bet is to eat a variety.
Choose at least two of these key colors for your next salad:
Green spinach, lettuce, avocados, peppers, asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, kale, cabbage, green peppers (and so on) are rich in plant chemicals that fight off cancer-causing agents.
Red tomato, bell pepper, strawberries, watermelon, grapes, peppers, beets and onions contain lycopene, a potent substance that protects against prostate cancer and other diseases.
Purple and blue grapes, blueberries, plums, figs, prunes, cabbage and onions carry antioxidant substances that can delay the aging of our cells.
Orange and yellow carrots, peppers, cantaloupe and corn are rich in substances that protect our eyes and keep the heart strong.
White onions, cauliflower, garlic, beans and mushrooms bring antioxidants to the table that protect against chronic disease.
Remember too that a salad can turn into a main dish with the simple addition of protein: grilled meat, chicken, tuna, beans, eggs, cheese.
And what about dressing? We want it to enhance flavor, not cover it up. Whether you’re adding mayo, sour cream or another type of dressing, here’s a good rule of thumb for each portion: 1-2 tablespoons dressing that contains about 100 calories and no more than 2 grams saturated fat. And remember, if it has less than 140 mg of sodium per serving, it’s considered low in sodium.
That’s what I call a salad deluxe!
Barbara Intermill is a registered dietitian nutritionist and syndicated columnist. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition: The Uncomplicated Science of Eating.” Email her at [email protected]