Up Your Salad Game

by Rj Johnson and Traci Zitzer, Owners, Modern Day Forager

The start of a new year is an opportune time to make small changes with big impact.

Sparked by the unhealthy habits of the pandemic diet, people are going to be more proactive and flexible with their diet. Gone will be the keto and Whole 30 restrictive diet fads. What we are going to see is people choosing to eat local, seasonal, organic foods with a nod to comfort, convenience and ethnic fair.

The focus will shift from calorie counting to more mindful, clean eating food choices and listening to their bodies.

To help you start in this fresh direction, our suggestion is to eat a balanced diet filled with wholesome foods, lots of colorful fruits, vegetables, dark leafy greens and nutrient packed whole grains.

Ancient grains are powerhouses with a wonderful nutty taste, great chew and the perfect base on which to build nutrient dense salads.

Here’s how you up your salad game. First, cook your grains in chicken or vegetable stock to start layering in flavors.

The next step is to make the dressing. The idea is to pack in the flavor, you don’t want to sabotage your salad with too much of a good thing. Vinaigrettes work best, your oil choice can take it in a myriad of directions, extra virgin olive oil brings a rich flavor, avocado oil is a light neutral choice or try a toasted sesame oil for a unique spin.

Vinegar adds its own special punch; try red wine vinegar for a tangy bite, use champagne or apple cider vinegar for a more subtle flavor and don’t forget to stir in your favorite herbs, spices, honey or even hot sauce for a great flavor boost.

Building the salad is the next way we explore flavor, color and texture. Be creative with not only the ingredients but with how you chop, shred or dice your components.

Your dark leafy greens make a great bed on which to build your salad but could also be chopped and tossed in.

Don’t skimp on the proteins, these salads are a meal not a side dish; meats, seafood, beans and cheese all have a place here.

For the final layer of flavor and crunch, finish your salad with fresh herbs, seeds and nuts. Fruits add sweetness, berries are full of antioxidants and fiber.

Choose seasonal and organic whenever possible, explore your local farmers market and have fun.