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Serving up sensational salads

By MSN NZ Recipe Finder staff
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Salads are often served before a meal, or on the side, but there is no reason why they can’t be a healthy meal on their own.

Some will say it’s all about the dressing, but the key to keeping salads appealing is to use a number of different ingredients each time. To ensure they’re also nutritious – you just have to make sure you choose the right ones.

Here are five tips to keep your salads sensational, this spring and summer.

And remember, you really are limited by your imagination only...

1. Use vegetables

The first step to special salads is to use plenty of fresh vegetables; these will not only boost the flavour, but the antioxidant and vitamin levels as well.

Most salads start with greens and given these are a great source of fibre and low in kilojoules, this is a wonderful way to add bulk to your meal. But almost any vegetable can be added to a salad. Try snow peas and zucchini, radishes and cucumber, asparagus, carrots, green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, artichokes and avocadoes.

Mixed leaf salads in pre-packaged bags also have a great range of nutrients and flavour variation. For example, baby spinach leaves are packed with folate while bitter leaves, such as radicchio and rocket, stimulate the appetite and digestion.

2. Add fruit and herbs

Fruit can also add sweetness to a salad, which can help you cut back on high-kilojoule dressings. Try orange, mango, cranberries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, peach or grapefruit to change the flavour of your salads.

And don’t forget about herbs! Any herb that’s in season and shredded into your salad will add fragrant flavour. Check out our Herbs and spices slideshow

3. Pick a protein

The fastest way to make a salad a main meal is to add a protein - but if you’re watching what you eat, then make sure it’s a healthy alternative and measure the serving size. Try lean beef, chicken breast, tuna, salmon, or hard-boiled eggs. You can even add a few nuts like walnuts, pecans, almonds, or cashews. It’s probably best to limit the number of times you add processed meats to salads as they’re packed with additives.

4. Easy on the cheese

Cheese is also any easy, flavoursome protein to add your salad, but try not to over-indulge. Just a small serve will increase your salad’s kiloujoule count dramatically. Try fetta, parmesan, or percorino.

5. The dressing dilemma

Lastly, salad dressings can be really simple and they can be tailored to suit any diet. Freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice can be added to salads packed with fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs - and these are probably best for those on a low-fat diet. There are also plenty of low-fat dressing options in the supermarket, although they may not taste quite as good.

If you’re going to use a creamy dressing like mayonnaise, which is notorious for adding hidden kilojoules, then use it sparingly. It’s actually a great idea to keep the dressing on the side so you can add what you need without overdoing it.

Any salads made with dense vegetables should be dressed ahead of time, to allow the flavours to be absorbed. Leafy salads need to be dressed just before service.

Recipe finder has hundreds of salad recipes to toss around. Browse through classic salad recipe ideas such as pasta salads, healthy salad recipes and coleslaws.

Do you have any salad ideas you’d like to share?

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