This is a perfect follow up to our challenge last week!
Thinking outside the salad bowl: Q & A with Lani Muelrath
If you’ve jumped into a plant-based food plan with both feet, you already get it that it’s all about the food. All about the plants. The place from which all phytonutrition and color come to build that healthy, beautiful body.
Yet there’s usually some point of pause when it comes to salads, now that you are not only plant-based but aso of a healthy, whole-foods and low-fat frame of mind. Now you’ve not only jumped in with both feet, we’re talking both hands too. Those days when ‘salad’ meant raw veggies tossed with oil and grated cheese are fading into the fatter-days past.
Perhaps Mary Jo’s letter has a familiar ring:
Mary Jo Leach asks:
I am rather new at all this and I accidentally ran across your blog. Sounds like something that will help me along. I have many questions. My first question would be, “How do I make a salad dressing that me and my husband would like?” Sadly I am used to sweet, french style dressings, and my husband likes ranch or blue cheese. Neither of us like vinegar taste. We are trying to keep it plant based, dairy free, salt free, sugar free and fat free. You can see we do not have many choices. Can you help us?
Lani’s reply: Hey Mary Jo, thanks for bringing this up as it is not an uncommon question – how to get creative with salads now that you are going to be ditching the old toppings that can create a salad that actually ends up being an unhealthy affair. At the highest calorie dense edible around, vegetable oil weighs in at 4,000 calories a lb – that’s over 100 for every tablespoon with essentially nothing to show for itself but a load of fuel that is easily destined for storage. Remember, the fat you eat is the fat you’ll wear.
I’m not going to kid you,when we’re used to those creamy dressings let’s face it, there’s going to be some re-alimentation to do. That means a changing of your tastes. Trust me, a little time spent on this shift and before long heavy dressings and oily toppings just seem like – well, heavy oil additions. The trick is finding transitions while at the same time having a pro-active mindset about creating lighter tastes. Previously, your admitted preferences were for a serving of rich dressing that created a tasty backdrop for your salad veggies. With a little creativity and patience, this will change.
It helps to keep in mind that a salad without all the oil and extra fat of creamy dressings will make a huge difference in your health and body-shaping plans. And before long the old heavy dressings such as ranch and French will lose their pull and your salads will leave you feeling a whole-lot better. Going into it with the intention of healthy purpose will help.
1) Add more flavorful crunch: If your salads have been largely greens with other vegetables tossed in, rethink the base to something more colorful. Shredded green and purple cabbage, carrots, chopped colorful sweet peppers, and jicama make great salad bases.
This is actually my new favorite go-to salad and you can see a picture of a recent salad lunch at my house here: Today’s lunch, color and crunch. I use a food processor to grate the veggies which allows you to make a pile of crunchy salad in a snap. Add in finely chopped parsley, cilantro, spinach, or even kale – just make it tiny enough to mix in as some great color. Sometimes I’ll add sprouted sunflower seeds too. Toss in some garbanzo beans. And here’s the honest truth: A salad like this only needs a squirt of lime juice to make it absolutely divine. And if you are including a few nuts or seeds in your diet, sprinkling on even a teaspoon of raw or roasted sunflower seends creates amazing flavor.
2) Investigate simple ‘dressing’ solutions: There are some great low-fat, no oil dressings out there yet to be honest, I never seem to like to make the time to prepare these in advance. Admittedly my own shortcoming. Yet if you’re like me and want great flavor without a big time investment, and you find that just lime juice is not sweet enough for you, here are some other great ideas:
- Soak some dates overnight and mash them into lime juice to make a creamy, sweet dressing. When ‘sweet’ sounds best I’ll do that for the salad I described above. This may be all you need to offset the ‘vinegar taste’ that you refer to.
- Balsamic or brown rice vinegar can be sweetened in the same fashion. Sometimes it comes flavored distinctly sweet. A few weeks ago we were visiting a winery and they had balsamic vinegar sweetened with fig juice concentrate. This goes perfectly on greens.
- Greens tossed in a flavored vinegar and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast to boost a savory flavor.
These are quick, easy, and fat-free.
3) Take a look at Healthy Girl’s article right here on Engine 2 with a whole garden full of simple salad ideas: How Healthy Girl Makes a Salad and Makes Salad Making Easier.
Thinking outside the salad bowl.
Literally. Often while prepping the lunch soup, sandwich, wrap or veggie burger, I’ll yank some veggies out of the fridge. By the time everything is officially ready to serve for lunch, I’ll have noshed on at least 2 big carrots, 1/4 of a head of cabbage, and few chunks of sweet bell pepper or sugar snap peas. There’s a salad. It just didn’t look like one. Salad doesn’t have to mean all prepped up and pretty in a bowl.
Thanks Lani! Do you have a question for Lani? Please leave a comment below.
Thanks again Lani!
If you’d like to see some of Lani’s work and check out her great fitness programs, check out her website: http://lanimuelrath.com/
Lani Muelrath is a plant-strong fitness expert! Lani is the creator of The Body Transformation Formula and Fit Quickies™ 5 Minute Workouts. She has a Master’s Degree in Physical Education and over 30 years of experience as a teacher, coach, and trainer. She has received awards for her instruction, created and starred in her own CBS TV Show, and her expertise in the area of health and fitness is called upon by examiner.com, as Fitness Expert for Dr. John McDougall’s Health and Medical Center, coach, Dr. Neal Barnard’s 21-Day Kickstart program, and Health and Fitness Lifestyle Expert for Vegan Mainstream.com. She is Certified in Plant-Based Nutrition through Cornell University.