Now is the time to celebrate the return of spring by adding a variety of the season’s best produce to your meals. Produce departments are brimming with seasonally fresh vegetables and fruits that are low in fat, high in fiber, at their peak flavor and nutritional value, and at their least expensive prices. These nutrient-packed carbohydrate foods provide vitamins, minerals, bioflavonoids, antioxidants, and enzymes that provide us with a wide range of powerful health benefits.
A majority of spring vegetables and fruits can be eaten raw, which helps ensures that they retain all of the nutrients that can be lost from cooking. And, one of the best ways to add a wide variety of raw spring produce to your diet is to include them in a salad that contains carbohydrates, protein and fat, making it a balanced meal.
Begin by building your meal on a base of spring salad greens. Fill a dinner plate with your choice of fresh mixed greens, and toss in baby arugula, spinach, kale, or sprouts to add volume that is high in nutrients, fiber, chlorophyll and low in calories. Add additional low-glycemic carbohydrates by piling on brilliantly colored vegetables for even more vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and beneficial fiber. You can easily add 1 cup of mixed vegetables such as sliced carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, broccoli, radishes, mushrooms, asparagus, snow or sugar peas, and red or green onions. You can also include some fresh sliced strawberries, blueberries or mango for a sweet addition that enhances the flavor of the entire salad. Add about 1/2 cup of higher-glycemic carbohydrates from cooked red or sweet potatoes, quinoa, wild rice, whole wheat pasta, fresh white corn, beans or sweet peas for even more fiber and nutrients.
With your plate now filled with plenty of carbohydrates, begin to balance the meal by adding about 3/4 cup of cooked, quality protein. I prefer the breast meat from grilled chicken or turkey, cold cooked shrimp, flaked king salmon, tuna, crab, hard boiled eggs or egg whites. Next, top it off with the addition of healthy fat. A meal with approximately 30% of the calories from healthy fat will help keep you feeling full longer, balance blood sugar better, and increase the body’s ability to effectively absorb phytochemicals like carotenoids and the fat- soluble nutrients Vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Healthy fats can include olives, avocados, nuts, and olive oil-based salad dressings. You can also use small amounts of grated cheese or sour cream, creme fresh, or Greek yogurt. I recommend avoiding most creamy and store bought salad dressings. Instead, experiment by making your own healthy olive oil based salad dressings in small batches. Try adding aromatic garden-fresh herbs, garlic, dry mustard, fresh lemon or lime juice, red wine or vinegar, sea salt and ground pepper. You can also dress salads with freshly made or fresh store-bought salsa.
Once you understand how to build your salads as a complete, balanced meal packed with nutrient-dense raw foods, the varieties and combinations are endless. Below is one of my husband’s favorite salads, Mango Chicken Salad. Once you give it a try, you’ll agree that 40-30-30 balanced salads can easily become the meal.
Mango Chicken Salad
- 2 cups mixed greens
- 1/2 cup baby spinach
- 1/2 cup chopped red or yellow bell pepper
- 1/2 cup diced fresh mango
- 1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed
- 1/4 of an avocado, cubed
- 3/4 cup cubed cooked chicken breast
- 2 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- 1/2 cup fresh prepared pico salsa (mild to hot)
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated cheddar cheese
- 1 tablespoon sour cream
- 3 black olives, chopped
Directions: On a dinner plate, place mixed greens and spinach. Top with bell peppers, mango, black beans, avocado, chicken breast and cilantro. Dress with salsa, grated cheese and sour cream. Top with olives.
520 Calories - Carbohydrates - 53 grams, Protein - 40 grams, Fat - 17 grams, Fiber - 14 grams
Joyce Daoust is a Certified Nutritionist and national best selling co-author of:THE FORMULA, A Personalized 40-30-30 Weight Loss Program.