Life is busy. Many of us have busy social lives between work, school, volunteering, running the house, caring for kids or grands, or maybe going back to the gym. So, why not give yourself a break? Take the pressure off cooking by creating an easy make-it-yourself salad bar at home. You can prep the nutritious toppings ahead. Fill muffin tins with assorted toppings and cover and refrigerate until ready to use. When dinner time rolls around, create an assembly line, and let the family self-serve and create their own meals. Pick and choose a selection of your favorite things.
Here are some suggestions:
BASE IDEAS: *Plan on about one cup per person
- Fresh lettuce (Spring mix, spinach, kale, arugula, romaine, red leaf, green leaf, iceberg, etc.)
- Cold cooked pasta (Corkscrew, tri-colored, bowtie, ziti, etc.)
- Cold cooked grains (Farro, Quinoa, etc.)
- Cold cooked couscous, brown rice, or beans
- Celery, thin sliced
- Carrots, sliced or shredded
- Red onion, thin sliced
- Sliced cucumber
- Cut broccoli
- Cut cauliflower
- Cut peppers
- Cut mushrooms
- Your favorite beans (garbanzo, fava, kidney, etc.)
- Dried fruit (craisins, red raisins, golden raisins, apricots, etc.)
- Pitted black olives, drained, rinsed & dried
- Tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces or grape or cherry tomatoes
- Hard-boiled eggs, crumbled
- Rotisserie chicken, shredded
- Roasted veggies, cooled & chopped (Asparagus, eggplant, charred broccoli, etc.)
- Cooked and cooled peas or corn
- Nuts (Toasted pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, pepitas)
- Your favorite fresh herbs (dill, basil, parsley, sage, rosemary, etc.)
- Your favorite shredded or crumbled cheese (Cheddar, feta, blue cheese, mozzarella, etc.)
- Blueberries or strawberries
CRISPY TOPPING IDEAS:
- Tortilla strips, toasted, cut up
- Pita chips, crumbled
- Bacon, crumbled
- Dried breaded onions
- A variety of natural healthy salad dressings (For store-bought, watch out for added sugar, salt, and unnatural additives.) Allow people to choose from various dressings such as Balsamic, Italian, French, Thousand Island, Ranch, Caesar, Creamy Italian, Russian, etc.
- Or make your own homemade avocado dressing by mixing about ¼ cup of your favorite Greek yogurt with one small mashed ripe avocado. Drizzle in a few tablespoons of olive oil, a quick fresh squeeze of lemon, a teaspoon of white wine vinegar, and some ground black pepper and kosher salt. Serve immediately or refrigerate for 30 minutes and serve.
Instead of making a boring meatloaf once again, let your family enjoy creating their own salad meal by picking their favorite toppings from the variety of delicious and nutrient-dense foods you put out. Giving them control over what they choose to eat will take pride in their creations and perhaps eat better. Not only will they expand their palates by trying new food combinations, but they will also gain the health benefits of consuming nutritious foods designed to keep bodies and minds healthy and strong.
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