While a salad is typically a healthy meal option, always opting for the same ingredients can make it boring-as well as keep you from maxing out on the healthy nutrients that you could be adding to the mix. Stephanie Middleberg, RD, a dietitian in NYC and founder of Middleberg Nutrition, shares her top selects for transforming your salad for spring and summer.
What they do: "One medium sized artichoke contains 20 percent of your fiber for the day for only 60 calories," says Middleberg. "Also it's a good source of folate, vitamin C, magnesium and high in the flavnoid Quercetin, which can also be protective against seasonal allergies."
Aim for: one medium artichoke or two hearts
What it does: "Potassium in these spears pumps sodium out of your body to help beat bloat and puffiness (because it's very rich in antioxidant compounds)," she says. "And it's filled with vitamin A, K, and fiber." Middleberg's personal favorite: asparagus salad with white beans, parsley, lemon and olive oil.
Aim for: depends how you use them but recommend 1/2 cup -1 cup
What they do: "Zucchini is laced with magnesium-each large zucchini contains 58 milligrams, which is about 18 percent of the recommended daily intake," she says. "Magnesium is a mineral that helps to prevent and heal headaches, insomnia and constipation." The vegetable also has fiber and folate. "I highly recommend making zucchini linguini and using a peeler or spirilizer for a great addition to salads or making as an entree," she says.
Aim for: 1 cup
What it does: "Avocado is the summer beauty food," says Middleberg. "They're an excellent source of healthy monounsaturated fat, which help hydrate skin, and are high in antioxidants (that protect against damaged skin), as well as phytosterols (which lower cholesterol)," she says. "I love avocado in salads for its creaminess and that they can take the place for salad dressings-just smash the avocado and add a little seasoning."
Aim for:1/2 avocado
What it does: "Fennel is excellent for your digestion and reducing bloat because it contains fiber, potassium, vitamin C," explains Middleberg. "It's also an anti-inflammatory food, is low in calories yet high in flavor." And while you may not think of it as such, it's versatile, too. "They are great raw, roasted or grilled in the summer," says Middleberg. "I recommend making a salad of fennel, celery, citrus, mint, lemon and olive oil-simple, clean and delicious."
Aim for: 1 cup
What they do: "Plums have potassium, vitamin C, antioxidants and fiber," says Middleberg. "Vitamin C improves iron digestion, so pair with iron-rich foods (such as vegetables, grains, nuts, meat, fish or poultry). "Try them grilled in a salad," she says. "Even their juice serves as a great base for a dressing."
Aim for: 2 plums
What it does: "It's high in nutrients as well as flavor," notes Middleberg. "And they contain vitamin c, and are also have a high water content that helps to keep you full, and lycopene, an antioxidant linked to cancer and heart disease prevention," she says. Try skipping classic lettuce and opt for pairing the fruit with feta a mint, she says.
Aim for: 1/2-1 cup (depends on if base of a salad or addition)
What they do: "Tomatoes are are a rich source of lycopene, vitamin A and C, fiber and potassium," says Middleberg.
Aim for: 1 cup chopped
What they do: "Sea vegetables are not only have bioavailable iron (because of a small vitamin C content as well), they are also high in iodine, amino acids, plant based omega's," says Middleberg.
Aim for: 1 tsp
What they do: "They're packed with antioxidants like vitamin E and selenium, which is essential for thyroid function and metabolism," explains Middleberg. Plus, they're also a "good source of minerals including copper, potassium, and zinc," she says.