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Salads an exciting way to eat healthy


Mother and daughter shopping for vegetables

Salads are an exciting way to increase your intake of vegetables and fruits. The variety is limitless and if you choose wisely, salads are satisfying and even help you eat fewer calories and sodium throughout the day. Be sure to vary the colors of your fruits and vegetables to help your body get the nutrients it needs. To keep calories in check, consider trying balsamic vinegar or another flavored vinegar seasoned with bit of garlic powder instead of the bottled, higher fat salad dressing.

Since May is National Salad Month, it's a great time to set a goal to increase the number of salads you eat. Try replacing one of your dinner and lunch meals with a big salad and eating salad as a side a couple of times during the week. Start with green leafy vegetables like lettuce fresh spinach, kale or lettuce and then have fun being creative.

For a side dish, add two or three more vegetables or fruits such as tomatoes, celery and carrots. For an entrée, fill your plate or large bowl with vegetables and fruits like raisins and a small amount of shredded cheese and a 3 ounce equivalent of a lean protein food.

If boring and bland are concerns, you can be creative by mixing tangy fruits such as strawberries, dried cranberries, and oranges with your favorite vegetables. And, if green leafy vegetables are not your thing, who says a salad has to include them? Just make a salad full of other fruits and vegetables. Have fun.

Try the following recipe for Asian Chicken Salad and tell me what you think:

Asian Chicken Salad (4 Servings)

If you're short on time or don't want to purchase the ingredients for the dressing, you can find a bottled Asian dressing in your commissary right along with the other salad dressings. Serve the salad family-style along with whole wheat crusty bread for a full meal.

Main Ingredients:

  • 4 cups shredded romaine lettuce
  • 2 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 1/2 cup shredded radicchio
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup mandarin oranges
  • 1/2 cup Chow Mein noodles
  • 1/4 cup slivered unsalted almonds (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (or another white vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon less-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (or 1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger)

Directions:

  1. Toss lettuce, cabbage, radicchio, carrots and green onions in a large bowl. Sprinkle with oranges, chow mein noodles and almonds, if desired.
  2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Swirl to coat evenly.
  3. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and pepper. Add chicken to skillet and cook 4 minutes. Turn chicken and cook 4 more minutes or until thoroughly cooked.
  4. Meanwhile, combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
  5. Add half of dressing to cooked chicken in skillet; stir to coat. Reserve remaining dressing. Continue cooking 2 more minutes to heat through.
  6. Remove chicken from skillet and place on salad. Serve with reserved dressing.

Special tip: To keep your green leafy vegetables fresh longer, wrap them in a paper towel and store in your fridge's vegetable bin.

(Recipe adapted from Healthy Eats and Repeats, University of Illinois Extension, Dewitt, Macon and Piatt Counties)


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