Simple Salad Choices for Cheaters

Recently I ranted a bunch about belly fat and mentioned that I'm trying to eat a salad for lunch every day. I say "trying" because I am not always succeeding. I happen to LOVE a grilled cheese sandwich more than any other thing, and I am having a bit of a struggle breaking my sandwich habit. I also love salads, but they always seem like so much WORK. Hence today's post: how to cheat when making a salad.

You all know I love to shop at Trader Joe's and Costco, so my cheats come from one or the other of these stores, but may be available in your regular grocery store as well.

Every store carries triple-washed greens for salads. You can buy bags of various mixes, but I prefer power greens: baby spinach, kale, and swiss chard. These little leaves are called "power greens" for a good reason! They are superfoods, full of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. If you're not afraid of a bit of earthy flavor, you will love them. The other great thing? You can just dump them straight into your salad bowl. No washing or spinning needed.

Our Costco in Columbia, Maryland currently carries several excellent salad cheats. You can find (in the refrigerated section) organic cooked beets. These are already peeled and just need to be sliced or diced before being thrown onto a salad. Trader Joe's carries their own version of this handy product. I love beets (raw or cooked) on a salad--they add spectacular color as well as sweetness and nutrients. My favorite pairing with beets is goat cheese.

Costco also carries Paisley Farm's Four Bean Salad. I wrote a blog about this product several years ago. This delicious treat does contain sugar, but gives your salad a ton of flavor and fiber. A quick and easy way to get four different types of beans onto your salad with one scoop of your spoon!

Again, in the refrigerated section at Costco, you can find Blue Hill Smoked Whitefish salad. This protein-packed treat is salty, smoky, rich, and delicious. And it has no added sugar. Basically, it is made from smoked fish and mayo. I could probably scarf down an entire pound if no one was looking. Dollop a few ounces on top of your salad to add high quality protein.

At this time of the year, both Costco and Trader Joe's carry fresh organic strawberries. Since strawberries are one of the "Dirty Dozen"--those fruits and veggies heavily sprayed with pesticides--it is usually recommended that we buy organic. I have found that organic strawberries often have more flavor, too. They are one of my favorite additions to a salad, also pairing perfectly with goat cheese.

Grilled chicken strips are available at both Costco and Trader Joe's for another easy, protein-packed salad topping. You can find them frozen or refrigerated.

Guacamole and hummus are both fabulous on a salad. Costco carries Wholey Guacamole in individual servings. I love this invention! We no longer waste guacamole that has turned brown. The serving size is perfect for one person.

Personally, I am not a fan of most bottled salad dressing. I always make my own. One reason is the taste. Another is the type of oils used. I prefer to use flax seed oil in my dressings, while most bottled dressings use cheap vegetable oils like soy or canola, with maybe some olive oil thrown in for flavoring. The healthiest oils: extra virgin olive, walnut, macadamia nut, avocado. For a warm salad, I like to cook a couple of slices of bacon and then use the warm oil to make a dressing.

Those are just a few of my favorite salad "cheats"! Share some of your own in the comment section below!