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Jump Start Your New Year – Eat Salads for a Week!

The New Year is a chance for a fresh start. One of the biggest changes that we made in 2014 was in our cooking and eating habits. I now eat a salad pretty much every day. We alternate weeks: one week I take a salad for lunch each day, the next week we have a salad for dinner each night. It was a little tough at first to convince Sean to get on the salad train – when he thought salad he thought little bits of lettuce and croutons.

We’ve shared some of our favorite salad tips before, but here is my best advice:

  • Make your own dressing: This is one of those things that sounds a lot harder than it is. I keep old jelly jars in the cabinet and combine a combination of olive oil, vinegar (usually balsamic, sometimes white wine for a lighter taste or rice vinegar for an asian salad), mustard, lemon or lime juice, a dash of honey or maple syrup, and spices such as garlic, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Taste it, see if it needs more sweet (honey) or sour (lemon) or spice, and adjust. You get the hang of it quickly. It takes me less than 2 minutes to make the dressing each night.
  • Have a high topping-to-lettuce ratio: An all lettuce salad is boring, it just is. We try to have a protein, 3 fruits or veggies, and something crunchy in each salad. Get a balance of flavors and textures for best results.
  • Don’t get stuck in a rut: Mix it up! Anything gets boring if you eat it over and over again. Pick a few combinations that have some ingredients in common, but don’t taste the same (like mix up the protein & the dressing or add something bold like red onion & egg) to keep your taste buds on their toes.

Below is a meal plan for five varied salads. Note: we are not nutritionists. This is just a sample of how we might eat for a week. If you are making an extreme diet change, consult your doctor or nutritionist for medical advice. 

Jump Start Your New Year with a Week of Salads - Charleston Crafted

We go through lettuce phases, but lately we have been buying the XL tubs of spring mix/spinach combinations. These 16oz clamshells can make five dinners (serving two people – ten salads total) easily. In general, the greener and leafier the lettuce, the better it is for you.

We try to mix up or alternate the topping combinations, as well. So, if we have a sweet salad on Monday, we will try for something more savory on Tuesday. Little changes can do a lot to keep you excited. However, we repeat some toppings a lot. Almost every salad that we make has feta cheese. We love feta cheese and buy it in bulk at Costco. By mixing up the other toppings, we keep it pretty interesting.

Finally, we eat vegetarian about twice a week, but have another protein such as chick peas (canned and drained) or hard boiled eggs. This saves money and continues to mix things up!

Monday –  Vegetarian Cobb Salad

Vegetarian Cobb Salad - Charleston Crafted

Make a vegetarian version of this classic by leaving off the chicken and bacon. Instead, double up on hard boiled eggs (we do three eggs per person, egg whites only). This savory salad pairs perfectly with a balsamic vinaigrette.

For the salad:
  • Hard boiled egg
  • Red onion
  • Cucumber
  • Avocado
  • Feta

For the dressing:

  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Minced garlic
  • Spicy brown mustard
  • Maple syrup

Tuesday – Fall Harvest Salad

Fall Harvest Salad - Charleston Crafted

Mix it up (already!) with this sweet salad. The crunch of the pecans and apple combines perfectly with the soft feta and crasins while the sweetness of the apple and the crasins make this a non stop hit. Use pears when they are in season and red apple the rest of the year.

For the salad:
  • Pear/apple
  • Grilled chicken
  • Pecans
  • Crasins
  • Feta

For the dressing:

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Minced garlic
  • Spicy brown mustard
  • Honey

 

Wednesday – Meatless Mexican Salad

Mexican Salad - Charleston Crafted

All the goodness, without the meat. Switch it back to savory with this fan favorite. Black beans provide the protein, red onion and corn give you crunch, and avocado and feta give you that smooth goodness. For bonus points, add a scoop of salsa.

For the salad:
  • Black beans
  • Red onion
  • Corn
  • Avocado
  • Feta
For the dressing:
  • Lime juice
  • Olive oil
  • Minced garlic
  • White wine vinegar
  • Taco seasoning

 

Thursday – Chickpea Berry Salad

Berry Salad - Charleston Crafted

If you’re scared to try chick peas – this is a great place to do it first. The sweetness of the fruit complements them perfectly, you won’t even miss the chicken. Pecans add that perfect crunch. Warning: this salad is addicting.

For the salad:
  • Chickpeas
  • Pecans
  • Strawberries
  • Peach
  • Feta
For the dressing:
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Minced garlic
  • Spicy brown mustard
  • Honey

 

Friday – Easy Asian Chicken Salad

Asian Chicken Salad - Charleston Crafted

An oldie but a goodie, this salad has flavors unlike any other on this list. It makes a crunchy, delicious Friday treat. Scarf this one down and pat yourself on the back for a week well done!

For the salad:
  • Grilled chicken
  • Cucumber
  • Green onion
  • Mandarin Oranges
  • Almonds
For the dressing:
  • Rice wine vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Minced garlic
  • Soy sauce
  • Maple syrup

 

If you follow this salad dinner plan for a week, you will realize how good salads are and how great they can make you feel! Eating so many salads has helped us lose weight, but more importantly, feel lighter and more healthy. There’s nothing cool about passing out every night from stuffing yourself to the brim. These salads will fill you up with energy!

Click here for more salads that we’ve shared and click here for my super salads Pinterest board!

What’s your favorite salad?

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