Salad Making Tips (Montgomery County Extension System)

"There are lots of types of salads -- vegetable salads, fruit salads, pasta salads, meat salads (like chicken or ham) and congealed salads, to name a few. Salads can make a valuable contribution of essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and protein) to your diet! Many salads are also an important source of fiber, and many salad ingredients (especially fruits and veggies) are low in calories!!!

Not ALL salads are low in calories, however -- how healthy your salad is depends on the amount, and type, of other ingredients and salad dressings you add to your creation! The key is BALANCE -- a salad can be a side dish, or a meal! But however you choose, be sure that you do not "over do" it with those high-fat and high-cholesterol items. Meats, poultry, shellfish, cheese, nuts and eggs are all relatively high in fat and cholesterol...if you are adding these to pasta, vegetable or fruit salads, use only in limited amounts!

Use only enough dressing to moisten the salad or serve it separately. When possible, use a non-fat or reduced-fat dressing. One of my favorite local restaurants is famous for it's garden salad and bread stick appetizer -- however, when the salad comes to the table, it is literally swimming in an oily dressing! This is unappealing for folks trying to watch their fat intake, and how much healthier for their customers it would be if they would serve the dressing on the side!

If you are serving a salad that is high in fat, be sure that the other foods in your meal are low-fat or fat-free. Keeping calories from fat in your meals equal to or less than 30% of the total calories is recommended by the USDA for a healthy lifestyle!

For the must nutritious, tasty and attractive veggie salads, use only clean, chilled, crisp greens. To prepare fragile lettuces like Bibb and field lettuces, separate and wash the leaves by floating them in cool water. One way to dry washed greens is to put them between paper towels to absorb the moisture and air dry them. Once dry, lay them on a paper towel and slip into a clean plastic bag to store in the fridge until you are ready to use them. Give the greens about 30 minutes to crisp in the fridge before you use them in your salad. Don't add salt and vinegar until serving time, because it releases the juices, wilts the greens, and reduces the nutritive value of your greens!!! In fact, leave out salt altogether if the dressing will be well-seasoned.

For fruit salads, keep the apples, pears, bananas, peaches fresh and bright-colored by tossing them in lemon juice or some other ascorbic acid mixture (like Fruit-Fresh, which can be purchased in the canning section of your grocery store).

For meat salads, some veggie salads, and starch-based salads (like potato and pasta) mix well before serving time and chill so that the flavors and seasonings blend. Use only enough dressing to bind and moisten the ingredients.

SALAD USE TIPS...(from the AU Cooperative Extension System)
When Your Salad is the Main Dish:
*Use foods rich in protein;
*Let the salad be a meal in itself, garnish with fresh veggies or fruits and serve with whole grain bread;
*Make it hearty or light, but always nutrition! For hearty salads, try meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or cheese. For light salads use fruits or salad greens combined with a smaller amount of protein food such as turkey, ham, fish, beans, tofu, lean ham, light cheese, or hard-boiled egg.

When Your Salad is Served With a Meal:
*Make it light and simple;
*Plan small- to medium-sozed portions;
*Blend the flavors and textures of the salad with those of the meal;
*Don't repeat a food or flavor already included in the meal;
*Use salad greens, veggies, fruits, pasta, eggs or cheese

When Your Salad is the First Course of the Meal:
*Use tart fruit or seafood;
*Prepare it in small, appetite-teasing portions
*Serve it with crisp crackers or small breads

When Your Salad is a Dessert or Party Fare:
*serve a gelatin salad molded in a pretty shape, a fresh fruit mixture, or a frozen salad
*use a colorful fruit, veggie or meat salad combination with garnishes and served on lettuce leaves or other festive base;
*add unusual toppings or dressings and serve with whole-grain crackers, fruit or nut breads or party cakes.

Try to use chilled plates of bowls for arranging salads; individual and congealed salads also look more attractive served on salad greens. Pick a serving bowl that has a size and shape best-suited for the salad, and remember a Rule of Thumb: never extend salad greens past the edge of the plate! Of course, you can add garnishes such as celery curls, radish roses, carrot curls, or scored cucumber slices. And from a food safety perspective, keep COLD salads COLD, and HOT salads HOT!!!"

For more information call the Montgomery County Extension System.