Alternative title: One Salad to Rule Them All.
Today, ladies and gentlemen, let’s talk about the green.
My immense affection for the Sissonian Big Ass Salad is no secret around these parts, to be sure, but I still haven’t spoken much about my favorite Paleo lunch here on the blog. That’s a shame. And that’s something I’d like to fix, today, with a guide so practical that you frankly never knew you needed in the first place.
See, the Big Ass Salad doesn’t ask for much. It needs a bowl. It also needs a fork. What you decide to put in the former and later eat with the latter is where the magic hides, however, and also where so many healthy-eating newbies – those otherwise unaccustomed to including some leafy greens in their daily diet – tend to stumble.
How to get more vegetables, you ask?
The Wallet Work
Let’s go shopping.
If your local grocery is anything like mine, you’ll soon come to a few pause-worthy realizations:
- Organic produce is expensive.
- And what’s the real difference, right? Why not just buy the normal stuff?
Let me stress, firstly, that this is normal. Let me assert, secondly, that there is a difference. And let me finish, lastly, with one of my favorite statements: don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.
If you can afford organic produce, please shell out for it. If the difference between organic and regular is enough to make or break your Big Ass Salad, then I’m going to kindly suggest you snag what organic produce you can and fill the rest of your cart with the normal stuff. Is this ideal? Nope. Is this a deal-breaker? Not at all. Until you can spring for the local, organic greenery, however, there’s no need to nix salads from your diet entirely.
And again – if you’re new to this “daily vegetable” concept, a Big Ass Salad might be your best chance yet of starting.
I tend to go for a wide mix with my produce. On any given shopping trip, you’re likely to see the following items in my cart:
- Arugula / Butter Leaf / random other lettuce
- Whole mushrooms
- Carrots (sometimes the pre-shredded variety when I’m feeling lazy)
- Olives (the black canned variety, provided the ingredients check out)
- Banana pepper rings
- Bell peppers of assorted colors: red and green mostly, with orange and yellow on occasion
- Red or white onion
- A jar of salsa
- Olive oil or balsamic vinegar, should I need them
- A few lemons
- A small pack of blueberries (frozen works just fine)
- A few cans of tuna (packed only in water)
- Bacon (always bacon)
That’s the brunt of it. At my local grocer, at least, none of the above run me a significant amount of coin, and the lot of them – as you’ll soon see – can easily last me throughout the week.
The Prep Work
Do yourself a favor and do your veggie shopping on the weekend.
Why? You have the opportunity, then, to head straight home and break out the knives. Take twenty minutes (preferably away from your televion set!) to slice, dice, and make all of your salad ingredients as bite-sized and manageable as possible, and then store them in whichever BPA-free containers you have handy. A half an hour of work on the weekends, needless to say, pays off an incredible amount during what might be a busy work week.
Imagine being able to pop up (without an alarm!) out of bed, throw on your clothes, and crack the refrigerator door for five or ten minutes. Imagine then that you could grab a decent-sized container, throw in any number of the ingredients listed above (pre-chopped!), and stick that container in a sack alongside another smaller vessel for your dressing.
This is a quick and easy process. The office worker just ran out of excuses.
The Mix Work
Here’s where a little creativity comes into play.
If you’re not keen on any conventional salad mix, why not try and stir things up a bit?
The Blueberry Surprise
When it comes to protein, at least, opt for something light: chicken or tuna come to mind. Build that bottom layer of veggies as you like, but also throw some blueberries (as big a handful as you like, honestly) on top. For the dressing, use a splash of balsamic, but also bring half a lemon to squeeze like mad over the mix. The combo of blueberry and lemon is always a winner, and it helps too that the latter tastes fantastic over a bed of mixed greens. Olive oil is optional, but I tend to drizzle a bit over the top.
It Always Comes Back to Bacon
Balsamic and bacon, surprisingly, is one hell of a mix. Build your salad as you will, but then throw some bacon shards and slices of hard-boiled eggs on top. Add balsamic to the mix and relish in your newfound discovery: the tart sweetness of the vinegar meshes incredibly well with smoky, salty pork.
Keep the Doctor Away
If you’d like to experiment with adding fruit, why not try an apple? When you’re prepping your salad, take a few minutes to chop an apple into bite-sized pieces. Use olive oil for your dressing and add whatever seasonings you like (I go with salt, pepper, and various herbs) on top, and don’t be afraid to squeeze some lemon juice over the final product. You’ll notice that I like lemon. Try it, folks, and I’m willing to bet you will too.
The Taco Salad
Self-explanatory, sure, but still worth mentioning. If you have any seasoned ground beef on hand, and a microwave at work, you can easily construct a pretty tasty salad with a healthy dose of salsa on top. If you spring for the tongue-melting variety, as I do, you’ll find that you don’t even need cheese or sour cream — salsa provides plenty of flavor as is.
The Best Work
The Brain Work
Notice a common theme in these mixes?
Vinegar plays a pretty important part, sure. Adding something like balsamic to your salad has effects beyond the delicious, too, in that vinegar (and other acids in general, like lemon juice) can help control the spike in blood glucose after the meal. Anecdotally, I’ve found that vinegar with my veggies improves digestion, but that might just be secret justification to keep eating Big Ass Salads.
The more important theme, though, is in variation. As the kid who grew up hating big bowls of greens, I’ve taken a sharp turn with my romantic affection – a change due, in no small part, to the mixes listed above. Salads, big or small, can serve a great way to add some veggies into your routine, and the abundance of options they offer mean even the most die-hard of meat-eaters can find room to work with.
But what about you?
What kind of salad do you like to make, and why? What ingredients are an absolute must for your mixes? Paleo folks far and wide enjoy an equally wide variety of salads, I bet, and I’d love for your to list them down below.
See you next week!