This may sound strange, but when I started working at Well.ca, I was really excited to bring my lunch to work. My prior job involved a lot of travel, which in turn meant trying to find a somewhat healthy lunch from the depressing fast food outlets in airports or from client cafeterias. Just before joining Well.ca, I met a friend for lunch at IQ Food Co. in downtown Toronto. There, they serve the most delicious, healthy salads–or ‘boxes’ as they call them–made with fresh vegetables, grains and proteins. I took this as my inspiration and for the better part of a year, I have been making delicious salads for lunch for both myself and my husband. I’ve even managed to inspire some of my colleagues!
First, make sure you plan ahead:
Load your fridge with fresh produce. This time of year, I take my inspiration from the farmers’ markets and stock up on whatever is fresh and local. Right now, I’m loading up on lettuces, kale, beets, tomatoes, berries, peaches, carrots and more. Equally important are pantry staples like quinoa, freekeh, dried berries, seeds and nuts. I stock up on brands like Bob’s Red Mill, Inari and Eden Foods. It’s also worth investing in a good container to keep things fresh and to prevent leaks. I love my U-Konserve containers because they’re spill-proof, easy to keep clean, and do not leach any toxins into my salads. I pack my greens in the large container and some of the additions in a smaller one so everything stays fresh until I want to eat it. I also have been using a mason jar for my salad dressing with a Cuppow lid so shaking and pouring my dressing is a breeze.
My 7 secrets to making the perfect salad (for lunch or whenever!):
- Start with a grain: I usually cook up a batch of quinoa, faro or freekeh at the beginning of the week to use in salads. Try different grains and see what you enjoy.
- Layer in the greens: Arugula, baby kale, spinach and mixed leaf lettuces are my go-to choices and tend to have more nutrients and flavor than iceberg.
- Add nutrient-rich veggies: Add crunch, flavor, colour and nutrients with broccoli, cucumber, roasted cauliflower (or other roasted veggies), grated or roasted beets, or whatever you have on hand and love!
- Add protein: Leftover chicken, chickpeas, black beans, tofu and cheese are all excellent and flavourful options.
- Sweeten the deal: Fresh or dried fruit or berries help balance flavors. In the winter I will often add in a chopped apple, and this time of year I’m relying on blueberries and peaches to add both flavor and color.
- Vary the texture: Nuts and seeds add a nice crunch to a salad. When I don’t have time to toast them myself, I’ll often chop a handful of tamari almonds or add dry roasted pumpkin seeds. Avocado is also a nice balance to crunch and packs a dose of healthy fat.
- Dress it up: I tend to rely on homemade vinaigrettes. My favourite is apple cider vinegar , dijon and olive oil, but lately I’ve been experimenting with spiced yogurt dressings which are a low-fat way to add creaminess. Dress just before you eat the salad.
A great salad is satisfying to eat and has a nice balance of flavors and textures. What is your favorite combination of flavors and textures?
Erin Young is a mom to three young kids, and she’s also Well.ca’s superstar CMO! She loves running, travelling, and cooking.