At the beginning of my plant-based journey, I ate a lot more salads, because I didn't know what to cook. As time went on, I discovered how to 'veganize' the foods I loved before going plant-based. As a result, though, the salads and dense greens went by the wayside. Of course, I know the importance of eating nutrient-dense foods and balancing what I eat, so I am on a quest to bring more bright and vibrant salads back into my plan. All salads, though, are not created equal, so I made a nutrient-dense lentil salad to die for.
For those of us who want to lose or maintain our weight, nutrient-dense salads are an important part of our daily eating. In fact, we should eat at least one giant salad, if not more, daily, in order to maintain a healthy weight. For those of you blessed with an ability to keep the weight off regardless of what you eat, salads are still important in your overall health.
As I said in previous posts, I have pledged to include more greens in my diet and create a variety of salads to keep it interesting. In my opinion, there is nothing worse than eating the same thing day after day, without any variety.
So, if you want to join me on my quest to eat more greens, let's make a giant nutrient-dense salad.
WHAT ARE NUTRIENT-DENSE FOODS AND WHY DO WE NEED TO EAT THEM?
In his book, EAT TO LIVE, Dr. Furhman discussing the necessity of including the highest nutrient-dense foods in our diets to help the body's immune system, detoxify, and help the body repair the cellular system. As a result, Furhman claims eating this way protects against cancers and other diseases. Likewise, if you want to lose weight, the more nutrient-dense foods you eat, the less you will crave low nutrient empty calories.
Dr. Furhman's nutrient-dense food chart, for example, ranks the highest nutrient-dense foods and developed a scoring system called Aggregate Nutrient Dense Index (ANDI) which rates foods based on their nutrient density or how beneficial they are in terms of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients per calorie consumed. The higher the ANDI score (1000) the better the food choice. However, low scores (1) are low-density empty calories like cola.
The ingredients in my lentil salad, as an example, rank in the following way:
- Kale 1000
- Romaine Lettuce 510
- Cauliflower 315
- Tomatoes 186
- Grapes 119
- Lentils 104
- Cucumbers 87
- Chickpeas 57
- Onions 50
- Chickpeas 57
Obviously, including kale in my salad as well as Romaine lettuce is important in terms of the base of my salad. Although some of my choices for my salad are lower in the ranking, all the items rank on the nutrient-dense chart.
Basically, eating a raw salad full of greens and other nutrient-dense vegetables is beneficial for our overall weight loss and good health.
FAST AND EASY TIPS FOR MEAL PREPPING SALADS TO INCLUDE THEM IN DAILY EATING
When I meal prep for the week, I always plan salads a few days a week as entrees, as well as lunches that pack well and stay fresh. First, making quinoa, or another grain ahead of time, takes cooking out of the planning when you are trying to make a healthy meal on the go. Quinoa is not only easy to make, it literally takes 15 minutes. So, if you make a quick pot of quinoa, you can add it to your meals all week long.
If quinoa is a new grain for you, here are some easy quinoa cooking directions, to help you discover how easy and delightful quinoa is.
Making lentils ahead of time also saves a lot of time, and they can also be used all week long in entrees, salads, and soups. An even better tip is to buy the lentils already cooked. Trader Joe's, for example, sells a steamed vacuum-sealed bag of lentils in their refrigerator section. Every time I go to Trader Joes, I stock up on steamed lentils to save myself time in the kitchen.
Buying canned organic chickpeas, instead of dry chickpeas, for example, is another time-saving tip for making quick and easy salads. And, of course, cutting vegetables up beforehand, and keeping them in separate containers, is also a way to help out with timing and meal prep.
MAKING THE PERFECT NUTRIENT-DENSE LENTIL SALAD
In order to make a nutrient-dense salad, not only did I include my greens, but I wanted plant protein-rich foods as well. As we all know, the most annoying question people ask us is, "where do you get your protein?" Instead of getting frustrated with pure ignorance, my response i is always the same, "lentils, quinoa, chickpeas, spinach, and beans." This response, though generally met with a confused look, quiets whoever asks me the question.
As vegans, we don't need to worry about protein, or missing any nutrient really, as long as we eat a combination of healthy foods with balance. What makes me laugh is no one considers their vitamins, minerals, and nutrients when they are shoving a McDonald's cheeseburger down their throat. But, to each their own, and sometimes ignorance is bliss. So, for now, let's be glad we are amongst like-minded individuals who get it.
OIL-FREE LEMON TAHINI DRESSING TO BRING YOUR LENTIL SALAD TOGETHER
Although Dr. Furhman focuses on eating our greens and beans, he also believes highly in healthy fats. With that being said, there is a difference between healthy fats and low-density fats like oil. Despite the debate over using oil, or not using oil, I don't use it EVER! Instead, I cook with nuts, seeds, avocado, nut butter, and tahini. And, even then, I do this in moderation as well.
In my opinion, dressing makes or breaks the salad. And, I don't want to eat a salad with just vinegar or lemon! Boring! So, I make my own version of a tahini dressing, but add a little apple cider vinegar and cumin to give it a little oomph and jazz!
- Fresh lemon juice
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Lentil salad, although served cold, has three cooked ingredients: quinoa, lentils, and roasted cauliflower. The rest of the salad, however, is raw. Even though I chose to serve my whole salad cold, because I made it ahead of time, you may serve your salad with warm ingredients as well.
Also, I served my lentil salad for dinner, but there were plenty of leftovers to meal prep for lunches for the week.
IF YOU ARE BORED WITH THE SALADS YOU CURRENTLY MAKE OR YOU WANT SOME NEW IDEAS, CHECK OUT THESE SALAD RECIPES:
- Vegan Taco Salad
- Tabouli Salad
- Italian Chopped Salad
- Vegan Quinoa Salad
- Mediterranean Couscous Salad
- Mediterranean Salad
- Roasted Cauliflower Salad
- Fattoush Salad
- Skinny Vegan Rainbow Salad
- Quinoa Greek Salad with OMG Oil-Free Dressing
- Kale Harvest Salad with Skinny Roasted Pumpkin Vinaigrette
- Skinny Vegan Caesar Salad
- The Skinny Good Earth Kale Salad
- Kale and Quinoa Southwestern Salad with Cumin Citrus Dressing
- 8 cups shredded kale or one large bunch
- 8 cups Romaine lettuce shredded, or one large bunch/head
- 1 large English cucumber sliced in bite sized pieces
- 1 pint grape tomatoes cut in halves
- 1 large red onion sliced thin
- 2 cups red grapes I used small ones; large ones should be cut in halves
- 2 ½ cups cooked lentils
- 2 ½ cups cooked red quinoa
- 1 cauliflower cut into florets and roasted
- 30 ounces chickpeas rinsed and drained
- 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- ¼ cup tahini
- 1 lemon juiced a really big one
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ cup water
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
- Cut cauliflower into florets
- Using a baking sheet, with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper, lay a single layer of florets on the pan.
- Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
- Cook for 30 minutes uncovered.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- Fill each base of the bowl with shredded kale and Romaine lettuce.
- Then, divide the ingredients among the 6 bowls accordingly, using about ¼ cup cooked quinoa, lentils, and other ingredients.
- Although you can toss the salad altogether, I section it off so it looks beautiful, and it allows everyone to toss their own salad if they choose.
- I place ¼ cup cooked lentils in the center of the bowl, and ¼ cup cooked red quinoa on the side in one section.
- Then, around the parameter of the bowl, I placed the chickpeas, onion, tomatoes, and cucumber, red grapes and roasted cauliflower.
LEMONY TAHINI DRESSING
- Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender and blend on high until smooth.
- The dressing will last 7 days in the refrigerator.
- Helpful hint (add the tahini last, so it doesn't stick in the bottom of the blender)
Hi! My name is Kathy, I am a retired high school English teacher & vegan enthusiast and blogger. My entire blog is fully plant-based vegan. I truly believe what we eat & how we live determines our health & the preservation of our planet! 🙂