I’ve got a secret that I’m confident will change the way you eat. Now, it’s rather simple and I’m not going to tell you to give up carbs, fat, alcohol – or, really anything. It’s this simple trick though that can help give you more energy, improve your health and help eliminate that common, afternoon slump.
Here it goes. Pack. Your. Lunch.
OK, so not riveting, I know – but how often do you do it?
Let’s take it a step further because it’s not just to pack your lunch, but what to pack for lunch. And here it goes – I’m encouraging you to pack salad. Don’t roll your eyes just yet – this is no bland, iceberg lettuce salad with stale croutons and shredded cheese.
I’m talking about packing a “big ass salad” (BAS) that’s loaded with filling nutrition that will power you through the workday and help you meet your veggie, fruit and even fiber goals (or get you really close to each of them) for the day.
And here’s another truth I had to learn myself, actually. When I’m not traveling and speaking, I work from home. That often meant I didn’t plan like I normally would if on the road, when I usually pack snacks and foods to go or if I’m in an office for the day. Even when working from home, I’ve got my lunch and snacks ready to go for the next day.
If not when left to choice and when the choices are between prepping and cooking a quality meal or grabbing some quick, easy to eat options that aren’t quite as psychologically or physiologically satisfying, you’ll lose every time. We all will.
So I’ve got ya’ covered with 5 steps to build the perfect salad.
Behold the Perfect Salad Cheat Sheet
Step 1: Build Your Base
What does this mean for a salad? Start with your green, leafy base but I urge you to skip the iceberg, flavorless and pretty much void of nutrition lettuce. Instead, opt for dark, nutrient-rich greens like spinach, arugula, baby kale, and/or spring mix. These will give you lots of volume, with very few calories and a ton of nutrition.
Step 2: The Power of Protein
Now it’s time to add your protein. Produce and protein are two important words when it comes to building any meal and this one is no different. I say get creative here, though – while you can of course go with hardboiled eggs, leftover steak or chicken, consider other options like beans or lentils, which are also all uber rich in fiber, shrimp or my personal favorite, canned sardines.
Step 3: Veggie Forward
So, yeah – you have your greens base, which is great. But what about some other veggies to mix in, boost the crunch, flavor and nutrition? Consider some of these smart mix-ins when thinking about building a better salad. What about cauliflower, broccoli, red cabbage or Brussels sprouts, which are known as a cruciferous vegetables with cancer-fighting properties? Consider some jarred options too to make things easy – artichoke hearts, which are a wonderful source of prebiotics, or roasted bell peppers come to mind. Another favorite is leftover, roasted veggies from the night before – we’ll often double or triple what we’re cooking at dinner to have leftovers for the next day, which all work really well mixed in a salad. The idea is mixing and matching as many colors as possible to create a nutrient and flavor-rich “BAS.”
Step 4: Energy Sustaining Carbs
Carbs aren’t usually thought of as a salad topper, but what about considering some belly-filling, fiber friendly smart carbs on top of your already nutrient-rich salad? Cooked red, purple or sweet potatoes chopped up all are great sources of potassium, fiber (leave the skin on) and a multitude of other nutrients. I’m also a fan of butternut squash and beets if we have it leftover chopped up and mixed in. With beets, of course, these are a common canned veggie too that you can mix right in as well. That deep, rich purple color provides loads of nutrition. Bonus - beets are also a source of nitrates, which can benefit heart health.
Step 5: Healthy Fat
Something like avocado, while technically a fruit, fits this category very well. Nuts do as well – walnuts, pecans, pistachios – any of them. Olives count too. Now we do have to be careful with this category because while all of these fats are amazingly healthy and nutrient-rich, they are also rich in calories and can add up quickly making your “BAS” a nutrient AND very calorie-rich option. That’s not the goal - I don’t guess you’re looking for a 2000+ calorie salad as your lunch.
Step 6: Dressing
I don’t have a tough time counting since I only said 5, but this one is a necessary piece. You need some kind of dressing for flavor. As a “break glass in case of an emergency option” (our go-to dressing isn’t available), I’ve been known to squeeze an orange for juice or balsamic vinegar for moisture without calories. But, admittedly my real go-to is a family recipe that has been passed down through the years and it’s one we now bottle with an uber-creative name that you leaves you asking for, well, Mohr <<- see what I did there? It’s called Mohr, Please Balsamic Vinaigrette and you can find it here. Consider this and I can assure you your BAS will never be the same.
To see and hear more from Chris, follow him on Instagram: @mohrresults