Low Fat Salads

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For Vegan MoFo Day 9, I wanted to talk about salads.  More specifically, low fat salads!

(I spent many hours this evening trying to kill a terrible headache.  I almost didn’t post!  So I hope you don’t find this post too lackluster.  I’m a little off my game today!)

Salads were never my thing.  I grew up as a vegetarian, or as my friends liked to joke, a pastatarian.  As a small child I found I didn’t enjoy the taste of meat. Or most dairy for that matter.  It was almost like I was meant to be a vegan!  Anyways, if you are a 30+ year old adult and tried to be vegan/vegetarian when you were younger, you probably know exactly what I went though.

As soon as I was able to choose, I chose not to eat meat.  People would flat out ask me “what’s wrong with you?!” when I turned down meat.  It was hard to explain to people that I didn’t enjoy the taste.  They insisted there must be something wrong with me.

I reveal in all the vegetarian/vegan options there are now when I go out to eat.  When I was growing up, that was nonexistent.  I would scour through the menus to find anything that I could eat.  People I was with would always proclaim “Look Jill!  They have something you can eat!  THEY HAVE SALAD!”  Or, when I would go visit a relative it was always “I made a salad so you would have something to eat!”

THEY HAVE SALAD!  That would always make me groan.  I shouldn’t have been so mean about it back then, but I was obviously not a salad eater.  Did I have the figure of a girl who ate salads?? NO!  THE ANSWER IS NO!

As I got older I started to open up to the idea of salads more.  There were some that I would enjoy, and especially if it wasn’t the only thing I was eating for that meal.  My problem was that the dressings I was putting on my salad were completely destroying any health benefits it may of had.  And that was pretty low to begin with, since my salads usually consisted of Iceberg lettuce and croutons.  I loved ranch dressing, and honey mustard, creamy Italian… anything that was super thick.  My salad turned into a vessel to get that creamy goodness into my mouth, and not a healthy meal to consume essential nutrients.

Becoming a vegan changed the way I looked at salads, honestly.  I found myself putting together salads that actually had vegetables.  I was introduced to the world of fruit in salads.  Nuts, beans, vegan meats!  All these things can go in salad!  I can honestly say that I now enjoy salad.  Imagine that?

Eating low fat salads though, that’s been a bit of a challenge.  There are plenty of options for dressing if you don’t want to consume a dressing with oil:

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I’ve heard of some vegans squeezing fresh lemon or lime over their salads in place of dressing.  I know a lot of people enjoy balsamic vinegar as a dressing.  Salsa, hot sauce, mustard… why not?  Am I right?

Well my problem with this is that the awesome acid reflux I’ve been stuck with completely hates balsamic vinegar.  Which absolutely sucks, because it’s delicious as a dressing and has no fat at all.  I’ve never tried lemon or lime as I’m afraid to set up any reflux it might give me.  If you don’t have acid reflux and you are trying to eat low fat, I suggest trying any of the above on your salads.

For me, I mostly use mild salsa as a dressing.  If eaten in small amounts, it doesn’t upset my acid reflux.  Win!

Salads really can be anything thrown together.  I think I’ve seen any and all vegetables in salad recipes all over the internet.  Here’s my favorite base:

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I start with spinach as my base.  It’s my absolute favorite for green leafy vegetable.  You can use whatever green leaf you’d like.  I won’t even knock Iceberg lettuce, even though everyone else seems to.  Sure it doesn’t have as many nutrients as any of the other ones, but I completely understand if other lettuces are too bitter or have too much flavor.  I don’t like much else other than spinach.  After my base, I always add tomatoes and carrots.  Depending on my mood, I will shred the carrots so they are easier to eat.  (I’m not always a huge fan of raw vegetables!)

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Next I add some sort of protein.  All summer I was making salads with chickpeas.  I also like them with black beans and lentils.  For Vegan MoFo this year I’ve seen some salads with cooked tempeh in them.  I think people also put tofu and seitan in their salads.  It’s up to you!  But protein is important, so that salad fills you up better.

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After that it’s add anything you like!  For today’s lunch I made a sort of “taco salad” by including corn, and vegan taco meat.  I usually like to crumble up tortilla chips into this salad but I ran out of time when I was prepping it this morning!

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This was my lunch today!  I put salsa on it as my dressing and I measured it out this morning so I was sure not too add too much!

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As a side note: I love those little Rubbermaid Tupperware containers.  It’s the perfect size for dressing!

So in conclusion, low fat salads aren’t too hard to make.  You just need to be a little bit creative with your dressing!  You aren’t limited to the options I’ve listed above.  I’ve also made low fat dressings out of vegan yogurt.  In the first picture I have a vegan ranch made out of coconut milk yogurt!  It has some fat, but at 4.5 grams per serving it isn’t too bad.  Just don’t use too much! 🙂

It’s fall now, so as a bonus I want to share my favorite salad from Happy Herbivore Light and Lean:

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This is called a “Harvest Salad”.  It’s made up of spinach, sweet potatoes, red apple, cranberries, and an amazing dressing that is part balsamic vinegar, and part maple syrup (plus a dab of Dijon mustard and ginger) !  I love this salad, and ate it all early winter last year when sweet potatoes were in season.

Do you have a favorite salad?  Know any good salad dressing recipes?  Share in the comments below!

Until next time!

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4 responses to “Low Fat Salads

  1. I had a headache yesterday too. I think it’s the weather! In the midwest, it’s been weird weather all summer.

    My favorite salads have a mix of greens (romaine, spinach and kale usually), shredded carrots, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, walnuts or almonds, pumpkin seeds, and either fresh or dried fruit of some sort (grapes, blueberries, strawberries, pears, apples). And I do LOVE LOVE LOVE balsamic vinegar..the more, the better. Soooo sorry to hear about your reflux issue! 😦

  2. Great article. I completely relate to how you used to feel about salads. Like you, even as a little kid, I naturally gravitated towards veganism and preferred veggies and pasta over everything else, but hated when people expected me to get excited about some bland lettuce and a cucumber. Now, I love to come up with good, hearty salads with fun veggies and proteins. Thanks for the inspiration!

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