How to build the perfect lunch-time salad

Salad can get a bad rap as a boring meal – but I am a self-confessed salad lover! In fact – during these summer months I have been eating salad for lunch almost every day. Why? There are endless potential combinations (so it never gets boring), it’s ridiculously easy to throw together (especially when cooking for one, as I am) and I always look forward to lunch! The best part – you absolutely don’t need a recipe. To make sure your salad is tasty, satisfying, and fuels you for work and play – follow our 5 easy-peasy steps below.

  1. Start with a leafy green base

This might be lettuce, baby spinach, rocket, kale etc. The darker green the better! Go for at least 2 cups of any of the above. Leafy greens bulk up your salad, they contain vitamin A, C, K, folate, potassium, magnesium… and more. Leafy greens promote good immune function, fight inflammation, reduce chronic disease risk including cognitive decline (sounds pretty good to us).

  1. Add colourful vegetables

Including a range of different coloured vegetables means a range of different vitamins and minerals, important for functioning of our body. What’s more- vegetables are packed with fibre to keep you full, feed your good gut bugs and keep your bowels healthy. Aim for at least 2-3 different colours.

Vegetables I love eating on the daily include cherry tomatoes, purple cabbage, beetroot and finely chopped carrot (3 different colours!). Got time and want to make it more interesting? Roast a tray of vegetables at the beginning of the week to save you time, and make lunch extra-delicious! Pumpkin, broccolini, red onion (and virtually any other vegetable) go nicely. Sprinkle some harissa, dukkah or moroccan spice for some flavour inspo!

  1. Add slow-burning smart carbs

Slow-burning carbohydrates contain fibre, keep your blood sugar levels stable and give you energy to make it through the rest of the working day or through a tough afternoon session in the gym.

A good starting point is ~1/2 cup of chickpeas, lentils (or other legumes), quinoa, brown rice, sweet potato, buckwheat or freekeh. Another option is to pop your salad on a nice grainy wrap, or 2 slices of grainy, sourdough or rye bread. Note that you might need more than this if bigger, more active or trying to build muscle. If you’re short on time, try sunrice microwave rice cups, roast a large tray of sweet potato or boil a big pot of grains up at once!

  1. Add a source of protein

Protein is one of the building blocks of our bodies tissue (including muscle, skin, hair and nails) – so you could say it’s pretty important! Protein is key to keeping you full, maintaining and building muscle mass.

Suitable options include tinned tuna or salmon, grilled/roast chicken (BBQ chicken for an easy option!), beef strips, tofu, roast salmon, tinned and rinsed legumes, boiled eggs or a side of home-made zucchini corn fritters or a frittata. Portion size varies within proteins – but around a palm-hand size is a good place to start.

  1. Finish it off with healthy fats

Don’t skimp on the fats! A handful of chopped avocado, ricotta, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, cheddar cheese, haloumi, nuts or seeds (toasted pepitas – yum!).

Fun fact: Remember those leafy greens we talked about? Fats actually help your body to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins (like Vitamins A and K found in leafy greens).

A final note on dressing – if you love it, go for it. If stuck for ideas – try a simple squeeze of lemon, olive oil, apple cider vinegar or balsamic glaze. A little dressing never hurt anyone, and if it’ll make you more inclined to eat a big beautiful salad – go for it!