ByÂ Leo Babauta
In this first week of theÂ Eat Healthy Meals Challenge, Iâ€™m challenging you to eat a hearty salad each day for lunch.
Iâ€™d like to talk about why and how, but before I do that, a couple of notes:
- You donâ€™t have to eat vegan on this challenge. Iâ€™m eating vegan obviously, and the meals Iâ€™ll share will be vegan, but you can modify the meals or choose your own healthy meals as you see fit. Add chicken or fish or cheese or whatever you like.
- I canâ€™t prescribe what kind of eating will be healthy for you and your life. You have to figure out whatâ€™s the healthiest path for your body and living circumstances (family, budget, etc.). Iâ€™ll share what Iâ€™ve found to work though.
- If you donâ€™t want to eat a salad for lunch, thatâ€™s OK! Pick something with lots of veggies and fiber and nutrition, though.
OK, with that out of the way, Iâ€™d love to share my favorite salad with you â€¦ but letâ€™s talk about â€œwhy a saladâ€ first!
Why a Hearty Salad?
Because there is no better way to get a ton of nutrition in your body than a hearty salad. And also itâ€™s delicious, not just nutritious.
Itâ€™s often recommended that you get 4-5 servings of vegetables, which most people fall well short of. Think about it: most of us donâ€™t eat vegetables for breakfast, and we might get one serving at lunch and another at dinner (sometimes not even that). That means that on most days, weâ€™re getting 2 servings, not 4!
But a good hearty salad can have 3-4 servings of vegetables (plus nuts/seeds, beans, fruits and other good stuff), and much of the fiber and nutrients your body needs each day. In one meal! The rest of the day, you donâ€™t have to be perfect, if youâ€™re eating a salad. That doesnâ€™t mean just eat French fries and soda the rest of the day, but you can rest safe knowing you got in most of your nutrition just at lunch.
Now, I would still try to eat healthy the rest of the day, as you still need more nutrition â€¦ but weâ€™ll work on that later. The daily hearty salad will be the biggest impact on your diet, in one meal!
In general, instead of counting calories or going for restrictive-type diets (no carbs, no gluten, etc.), I prefer to try to pack in the nutrition. This follows theÂ â€œnutritarianâ€ style of Dr. Joel Furhman:
â€œan eating style that is nutrient-dense and plant-rich, and includes a full portfolio of anti-cancer superfoods. These foods â€” green vegetables, fruits, colorful vegetables, beans, onions, mushrooms, fruit, berries, nuts and seeds â€” supply both the right amount of macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) and the vital micronutrients (vitamins, phytochemicals and minerals) that unleash the bodyâ€™s incredible power to heal itself, slow the aging process, and refuel itself with renewed vitality. A Nutritarian diet avoids concentrated sweeteners, salt, oil, and highly processed foods. Itâ€™s the diet style that maximally slows aging and promotes lifespan. As such, itâ€™s the most therapeutic diet style to reverse disease and maintain your ideal weight.â€
What Does a Hearty Salad Look Like?
It can look like a lot of things â€¦ but hereâ€™s what I would recommend:
- Lots of leafy greens and/orÂ cruciferousÂ veggies. I go for at least 2 cups! These are the powerhouse veggies, the most nutritious thing in any diet. Examples: spinach, Romaine lettuce, kale, arugula, micro greens, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower.
- Other colored veggies. These give you lots of great nutrients, like Vitamins A, K, and C, and more. Examples: carrots, beets, various colored bell peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes.
- Beans & other protein. Other than vegetables, beans are some of the most nutritious things you can put in your body, fully of fiber, protein and nutrition. And cheap! You can put any other kind of protein you like here too, from tofu to meat. Examples: black beans, red beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), lentils, shelled edamame.
- Nuts/seeds: While they are high in calorie per ounce, nuts and seeds are alsoÂ incredibly nutritious, with good fats and fiber and protein and other vitamins/minerals. I like to put a decent amount, as it also adds to the satiating nature of the meal. Use raw not salted/roasted if you can. Examples: walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, Brazil nuts, flaxseeds, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios.
- Fruit: I like to add fruit for sweetness and flavor, and more nutrition. Examples: Chopped apples/pears, strawberries (or other berries), mango, orange/tangerine, etc.
- Others: Mushrooms are super good for you, as are onion/garlic type veggies (diced red onions, for example)
- Dressing: Stay away from the creamier dressings and do an oil/vinegar mix (like balsamic dressings) or nut-based dressing.
Check outÂ Dr. Fuhrmanâ€™s guide to a perfect salad, which includes nut-based dressing ideas.
My Favorite Salad
Hereâ€™s the salad I am eating right now, that I absolutely love:
- 2 cups of greens (spinach, kale, arugula, chopped broccoli â€” often just a pre-mixed package of greens plus chopped broccoli)
- 1/2 cup chopped brown mushrooms
- 1/4 cup walnuts/sunflower seeds/pumpkin seed mix
- 1/4 cup sliced strawberries or some blackberries
- 1/2 cup to 1 cup frozen shelled edamame, heated up
- 1/2 cup canned black beans, drained & rinsed (or garbanzo beans or black lentils)
- Cherry or grape tomatoes (about 1/2 cup)
- Newmanâ€™s Own sesame ginger dressingÂ (about 2 tablespoons)
This is a huge salad, so adjust the amounts based on how much you can eat. It takes me only a few minutes to throw it all together, and I eat it out of a huge bowl. Itâ€™s a big lunch for me, and I love it!
Hereâ€™s a video:
So â€¦ give this salad (or something similar) a shot this week! If you can eat it every day for a month, there are huge odds that your health will improve.