You have great intentions: you want to eat as healthy as possible at lunch during the week. You head over to the closest salad joint only to find that the line is out the door, tens of people waiting for their hand-tossed, healthy deliciousness. Waiting in line cuts your lunch break short, adds stress, and gives you less time to enjoy your nutrition-packed meal.
An easy fix? Make your own salad and bring it with you! Part of the lure of these salad shops is that they seem to have every ingredient under the sun. But with a few quick hacks, you can make a meal that’s just as delicious and varied.
First, pick a salad theme to inspire you. You’ll notice that salad shops have fun names for their suggested concoctions that ignite the senses: Mexican Chopped Salad, Harvest Salad, and Springtime Strawberry, just to name a few. As you head to the grocery store, think of a themed salad that you love and aim to replicate it.
You’ll want to make sure you love your base of greens. Spinach, kale, and romaine are all-time favorites, but spinach and kale pack a higher nutrient punch, so if you enjoy those, prioritize them! Make sure to massage your kale and chop it up into small enough pieces to ensure it tastes delicious and meshes well with the rest of the salad.
Next, pick a protein and add some flavor to it. The death of the homemade salad has to be flavorless proteins that taste bland and do not keep you coming back for more. Salad shops, however, take the time to add some spices and seasonings to all their proteins. Marinate your meat, chickpeas, or fish in a sauce or spices overnight to enhance flavor.
Then, add some grains. Grains are cheap and easy to make in large batches, so you can use them for salads throughout the week but also dinners and breakfasts galore. Whip up a huge batch of quinoa, farro, or rice to use all week long. Not only do they add flavor to your salad, they also add fiber to keep you fuller, longer.
Here come the veggies. Pick a few that you love and cut them up during your meal prep at the beginning of the week. That way, you aren’t racing to cut veggies in the morning before work to add to your salad (being short on time in the morning is the ultimate detriment to the homemade lunch!). Make sure to chop all your veggies around the same size to maximize mouthfeel.
One reason those shop salads are so good? Cheese! That umami flavor simply can’t be beat. Sprinkle your favorite cheese – gouda, parmesan, pecorino romano – on top of any salad you make to maximize flavor. Our favorite? Parmesan crisps that add both texture and flavor to a salad. Make your own by shredding parmesan on a baking sheet and baking on high heat, or opt for a grocery-store-bought variety.
Lastly, dressing! That delicious concoction is what offers the most flavor to any salad and takes your meal to the next level. We always recommend making your own dressing, as many store-bought varieties are filled with sugar. If you don’t have the time, be sure to check the labels at the grocery store to maximize the healthful qualities of your dressing (opt for the least sugar you can). To make your own dressing, grab some olive oil, your favorite spices, and some chipotle peppers and blend quickly in a food processor. This combo offers a spicy take on dressing, but experiment with your favorite ingredients and see what works for you!
With these tips, you can easily put together a healthy, flavorful salad that will delight your senses at lunchtime – and save you stress and time waiting in line!