Rabbit Food, Real Food: Making Your Salads Into Meals

If you're starting a weight loss journey, it's important to realize it's not really a diet, it's a lifestyle change. You'll need to stock up on an arsenal of recipes you love to eat, but are also healthy, filling, and low-calorie. After all, nobody wants to eat food they don't enjoy. One of your major meal staples should become large salads. Leafy greens, vegetables and fruits hold the key to vitality — as well as holding the majority of life-sustaining nutrients. You can turn any salad from "rabbit food" into "real food" with a few easy guidelines. 

Start With Your Favorite Meals In Mind

What are some of your favorite meals you really wish you could keep eating? Tacos? Pasta? Pizza? Chinese food? You don't have to be deprived of these when you make the move to eating salads instead. You can turn most of your favorite flavors into a salad by making some substitutions and additions.

For example, if you can't leave your Thai food behind, you can make a variation that includes more greens and less fat. Follow these steps for a great Thai salad.

  1. Leave the carb-laden noodles out and trade them for some spinach, iceberg lettuce, and raw cabbage. Mix them up in a bowl. This will be your salad base.
  2. Next, be generous with some additives. Chop up some red peppers, a little cilantro, some mandarin oranges (fresh, not canned), a green apple, some almonds, and a carrot and add them to the mix.
  3. Finish your salad with some chicken breast (or leave it vegetarian if you're going meatless) and some Thai peanut dressing. You can make your own dressing by blending some low-sodium soy sauce, peanuts, honey, lime juice, chili pepper flakes, garlic, and a little sesame oil together in the blender. 

You'll have a Thai masterpiece that's mostly vegetables, but with a healthy burst of flavor as well. You can turn pasta into a salad by using romaine lettuce, spinach and basil leaves, adding some cooked whole wheat pasta (like rotini) and making a dressing with some pasta sauce and a small amount of cheese for garnish. Using tomato sauce as dressing saves you on calories, because it's completely vegetable based. 

Thinking outside the box will help you bring diversity to salad meals. 

Use Healthier Substitutes, Or Use Less

You can substitute some high calorie things for more healthful options. For example, in a taco-style salad, you can cook and flavor lentils with seasoning to avoid using ground beef. You can also use brown rice or quinoa instead of white rice. 

However, some things taste good and simply don't have a viable alternative in the healthy food market, like bacon. Sure you can try turkey bacon or soy bacon, but nothing really compares with the real deal. If you want to turn your favorite turkey, bacon and avocado sandwich into a salad, you might be concerned two of the three ingredients are high in calories. 

However, you can still make a great salad by using more vegetables and using the bacon as a garnish. Start with a good base of greens. Afterward, bring in some high-flavor players, like roasted garlic and red onions. You can also bring in the bread component by toasting a slice of whole-grain bread and cutting it up into croutons. Add some pieces of turkey.

Finally, cook just a couple strips of bacon in your oven — not your frying pan. This helps the bacon to cook out a lot of the grease, leaving you with a leaner, but flavorful choice. Pat the bacon down with paper towel to soak up the fat, and then crumble the bacon onto the salad.

You can use the avocado as a salad dressing. Simply blend half the avocado in the blender with a little lemon juice and water. Add some spices like pepper and cumin. Then, drizzle the avocado dressing over the salad. You'll still have a flavorful, healthy and filling meal that tastes a lot like your favorite sandwich. 

Learning to eat healthy is an art and a science. You'll need to adjust your grocery bill to include nutrient-dense ingredients, and you'll need to get used to eating salad on a regular basis. However, your salads don't have to be sad. Infuse them with flavor, and you'll be eating healthy with a smile on your face. 

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