Healthy salad ingredients with a sprinkle of Cheeky magic
Hey Cheeky ones,
Quick question; what’s springs to mind when someone mentions healthy food? I’m willing to bet you just pictured something close to a bowl of shredded lettuce deliciously blended with juicy tomato slices, slices of cucumber, succulent berries, and a hearty amount of avocado. And no, I’m not a mind-reader—it’s just that most of us associate salads with healthy food.
There’s something about salads that make them the epitome of the term healthy. Maybe it’s the raw scent of nature, the vibrant colours, or the crunchy texture. But in its healthful gloriousness, the taste of salad more than often turns out to be its Achilles heel.
Just type “salad taste…” on Google search and look at the autocomplete suggestions. It includes anything from blood, soap, dirt, bitter, bad, to grass. I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t want to eat salad that tastes like dirt or soap—which is where salad sprinkles, garnishes, dressings, and toppings come in.
Read on for more on healthy salad ingredients and how to give your salad a great mix of flavours.
First Things First; Are Salads Really Healthy?
This may sound like an obvious question with an obvious answer—but it’s not as clear-cut as you’d assume. I hate to be the one to burst your bubble, but salads are not always healthy. You need to dispel this assumption and approach you bowl o’ greens like any other dish – i.e., take note of the ingredients.
Sure, research shows that you could easily consume your recommended daily intake of most nutrients from a bowl of salad. But this is only if you use the right ingredients. Always ask yourself; “what are the total calories in my bowl? Are my toppings, dressings, and salad garnishes nutritious or not?” Healthy salad ingredients—which I’ll talk about later on—should be bursting with healthy fats, fibre, essential minerals, proteins, and antioxidants.
How to Make Healthy Salads
The beauty of salad is in its simplicity. Whipping up a bowl at home is fast, easy, and you don’t have to go through overly complicated recipes. It only takes a little guidance; a little nudge in the right direction and you’re good to go.
As you know, every wholesome meal starts with healthy ingredients. As a general rule of thumb, I like to play around with some fruits, seeds, nuts, and dark leafy greens. I also make a point of hitting the Farmers’ Market for a fresh supply of fruits and vegetables.
To read about the best seasonal salad ingredients to grab in the Spring months, read our blog here.
Then comes the next question; how do you blend these ingredients to maintain a balance? Before I start tinkering with the ingredients, I like to envision the end product—in terms of both nutrition and aesthetic. For this reason, I was rather excited when I recently found this great diagram by Detox Kitchen UK. In a nutshell, it categorises healthy salad ingredients depending on their culinary characteristics. It has great ideas for the grains to use in your base, plants to bulk them up, healthy dressings to bind the ingredients, pop-flavours to add the punch and finally the cherry on top - the sprinkles to add that texture and crunch. Then it shows you how to combine the different categories to create a well balanced salad bowl.
For more inspiration, check out these healthy salad recipes by Waitrose. You’re bound to find a recipe that hits all the right notes.
What Are Some Examples of Healthy Salad Toppings and Sprinkles?
The trick to a substantial salad that’s brimming with flavour, colour, and texture lies in the toppings and salad dressing. Think of it as sprinkling a dash of fairy dust (Peter pan-esque) on your salad—making it soar in savoury delight. But in this quest to make our salads not taste boring, it is easy to go overboard and lose focus of the whole point – i.e., eating healthy. What started off as green and healthy could spiral down into greasy and caloric. So take inspiration in some examples of healthy salad toppings include:
- Seeds and Nuts: Whether it’s peanuts, sesame seeds, coconut, walnuts, or almonds, seeds and nuts make great salad toppings. They’re nutrient-dense and they’re delicious! What else could you ask for? To quote an article by Dr Stacey Lockyer from the British Nutrition Foundation, “Go nuts for nuts!” Need I say more?
- Black Beans: I’m awfully fond of black beans. There, I said it! I know that some of you might not agree with me—citing their mild/bland taste, but when balanced with the right flavours, they really render beautifully to any dish that they are added to. They also happen to be particularly rich in minerals, vitamins, fibre, proteins, and anti-oxidants.
- Berries: Berries are as colourful and delicious as they are healthful. They are a wonderful source of your daily intake of dietary fibre, and vitamin C. Grab a handful of your favourite variety and sprinkle them on your salad for a bit of chewy texture.
Keep in mind, that while shopping for some of these healthy salad garnishes and topping, Diabetes UK suggests that you avoid fried ingredients, croutons, cheese, creamy dressings, and bacon.
I love Indian Salads—So I had to mention them!
By virtue of growing up in a typical Indian family, the idea of a well balances seasonal plant based diet was instilled in my at a very early age. Indian salads are the best at combing the wholesome goodness of veggies, with the crunch of toasted seeds and the flavour of herbs and spices! Trust me they are not boring at all and give you a feeling of wellness while savouring crunchy sprouts and succulent veggies.
Most Indian Salad recipes are flavourful and full of zest. One of my favourite dishes has to be Kachumber - quite literally translating to mish-mash in hindi. It's an impromptu combination of freshly-chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, lemon juice, raw onions, and the occasional pepper or whatever other salad ingredients you could raid in your fridge. Combine them for a burst of fresh flavour from spices and herbs to balance an otherwise rich curry like Tikka Masala.
Check out our tikka masala authentic tips and recipe here.
Check out this Kachumber recipe by Indian chef Hari Ghotra—but instead of toasted spices, use Cheeky Food's coconut salad sprinkle that is bursting with freshly ground coconut, garlic and spices all in one pinch. The best thing about this salad, aside from the taste, is that it’s rather easy and straightforward to make especially for a busy weekday dinner - healthy salad ingredients that come together deliciously to add goodness to your busy life!
To see our Cheeky Simply Salad recipe click here.
For more on salad toppings and dressing, check out our arsenal (not the EPL football team) of handmade, gluten-free and vegan food garnishes.
So, what is your favourite salad topping? Or better yet, what is the one type of salad that you can’t have enough of? Share in the comments below. Who knows, there might be an awesome Indian salad recipe waiting to be uncovered.