Remember when Casserole’s were all the rage?? Make them before hand, throw in all your leftovers or any combination of things ‘about’ to go bad in the ‘icebox’ and then throw it in the oven for a quick meal? There were so many different items in them that they were considered a full meal. Most of it, not so good for you, just fillers. Like pasta, rice, flour as thickener, etc.
Today, whether it’s at a fine dining establishment, a chain restaurant or at home, salads have become the new casserole.

For lunch at a restaurant with my spouse today, I had a ‘champagne’ salad. It had beautiful Romaine lettuce and arugula, pineapple, strawberries, grapes, apples, feta cheese, dates, walnuts, sunflower seeds, grilled chicken breast and a wonderful champagne vinaigrette dressing. MUCH better than any casserole!

Thnk beyond the old-school salad box! If you keep Romaine lettuce, leaf spinach, or any other leafy green on hand, you’ve replaced pasta for the basis of the perfect ‘salad casserole’ for dinner tonight. If you are a healthy, whole-food eater, you should be able to open your cupboard, fridge or reach for your fruit bowl and come up with a wonderful salad! Fruits (both fresh and dried), Nuts (raw or coated), grated or crumbled cheeses, grilled chicken or broiled red meats (depending on your diet preference), seeds (sunflower, pine, chia, etc.) and fresh herbs tossed or tastefully plated can create a wonderfully nutritious salad ‘casserole’ as a full meal. Keep in mind ‘what’ you can or cannot eat based on your health needs and personalized wellness plan, created with a practitioner. For example, certain foods are not recommended for certain illnesses, while others are beneficial for the same illness. When using coated nuts, you want to remember the Glycemic Index, and while using meats, you want to avoid processed meats.

Another twist is a Grilled Salad. One great alternative is a heart of Romaine sliced in half, and placed on a hot grill, heated with olive oil, sesame oil, or other healthy oil and spices. You can even grill pine nuts and raisins before laying the Romaine on it. Grill it until the top of the half starts to look wilted. You can also grill veggies and throw them on to a bed of green spinach. The ideas are limitless, if you remember what foods to use or not use.

A good idea, and a real time saver in addition to keeping in tune with your wellness plan, is to prepare meats in advance and freeze them. For example, boil or broil chicken and package it in freezer bags in individual serving sizes. While it’s cooking, coat nuts yourself and throw them in the oven on a cookie sheet. These can be packaged for later use, as well. When bringing your fruits home from the market, wash and dry them before putting them in your bowl, or cut them and put them in refrigerator containers for easy doling out when salad making.

If you are avoiding breads, gluten or yeast, you can also use other foods instead of croutons. For example, Mango Chips, crumbled Plantain Chips, and other healthy treats can be used. And instead of dinner rolls or bread, try either a toasted torilla (spinach tortillas or sundried tomato tortillas are great this way!). Spraying them with coconut or olive oil and sprinkling them with seasonings before toasting make them a wonderful treat! If you are in a rush, wrap your salad in a tortilla and make a salad wrap.

One of the most important tips is to watch your dressing!! Salad dressing is the biggest destroyer of the healthy salad that I know of. It is way overused! First of all, if you are eating salads to watch your weight, you might as well have a sandwich for your lunch or dinner. Covering your salad with many commercial dressings can easily add 300 – 400 calories, and lots of fat. If you are choosing salads as a healthy alternative, dressing also contain sugar, carbs, glutens, and many artificial thickeners including cellulose. You can find healthy dressings, or make your own.

Choose your ingredients based on your health goals and wellness plan, spend an afternoon preparing ingredients, and make up a couple of dressings to have on hand or purchase a good quality dressing. And, a dash of olive oil, vinegar or even Braggs Aminos are good on a salad, depending on your ingredients and taste pairing.

Happy Salad Making!

Author's Bio: 

Lisa C. Baker, CNC, RNHP, is a certified Nutritional Counselor, and also holds a certificate in Complementary and Integrative Health. She is a member of the American Nutritional Association, the International Association of Natural Health Practitioners, International Institute for Complementary Therapists, and is a Registered Natural Health Practitioner by the IANHP.

Mrs. Baker is a musician and recording artist, a mother of one, and resides in Muskogee, Oklahoma with her husband John Baker and their kitties.