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A salad.

When a person proudly announces to me she had a salad for lunch (in her quest of healthy eating), I have learned to politely ask in reply “So, what was in your salad”?  I have learned that a “salad” can actually mean (if one is telling the truth) a small bed of head lettuce smothered with blue cheese or ranch dressing and topped with cheese, croutons and bacon bits, with a dollop of creamy pasta salad (a la salad bar) on the side.  As far as nutrition goes, this kind of salad can be loaded with unhealthy fat and lots of sodium and calories.

A healthier salad

On the other hand, there are salads full of nutrition and energy and taste. Let’s start with the greens…as I like to say let them be dark and clean.  So, for example, use romaine or red leaf or green leaf or arugula or kale or swiss chard or spring mix or any leafy green that is dark in color.  Organic is great but not always accessible to everyone so make the best choice you can.  I like to mix up several types of greens and prepare a large batch at a time to save me time: make sure they are washed clean, pat dry and roll up in a towel tightly, and put in frig for a while to dry off. Then I unroll from towel, chop or rip into smaller pieces and put in a large tupperware container so they are ready to grab at any time during the next several days.  You can choose from a vast selection of other healthy veggies or fruits to add to your salad, choosing what tastes good to you, like cucumbers, celery, onion, tomatoes, radishes, cabbage, apples, etc. These veggies can be added in unlimited quantities to suit your taste.

Add protein for a salad meal

If your salad is going to be a meal, it really should include a lean and healthy protein (for your blood sugar level and continued energy).  So think of including grilled chicken, roasted turkey, tuna fish, salmon, low-fat cheese, hard boiled egg, peas, beans, edamame, nuts, or seeds.  Lots to choose from but do remember to think of portion sizes.  Limit beans/peas to 1/2 cup, cheese to 1/4 cup, chicken/fish to 4-6 oz., nuts/seeds to two tablespoons.

Dress for success – time to let go of bottled dressing

Nothing completes a salad and makes it taste delicious like a great salad dressing!  It is really time to let go of the bottled dressings, since the reality is that they are usually full of chemicals and preservatives and other processing ingredients.  And it is so easy, and much cheaper, to make your own.  I like to make a weeks worth of dressing in a mason jar and just portion it out as I go.  It literally takes me less than 3 minutes to prepare my dressing – base of extra virgin olive oil usually (1/2 cup) plus balsamic vinegar or rice vinegar or fresh squeezed lemon (1/3 to 1/2 cup), maybe a teaspoon of dijon mustard, a fresh herb like basil or rosemary or marjoram, salt and pepper to taste…shake it up and voila!  I have shared three other favorite homemade dressings below, one is my family’s favorite, one is from Anthony Dissen, RD ( who visited EF when I was collaborating with the Whole Foods Wellness Club), and the third is from the Amansala Resort in Tulum, Mexico (where Blonde Joan and I recently attended a Yoga Retreat).

A final hint about healthy salads

If you want to use the least amount of dressing for your salad and still have it taste good, try the chop technique (learned this in a Manhattan restaurant with my girlfriend years ago).  Immediately before eating, measure out two tablespoons of dressing to start, sprinkle it across the salad, and chop like crazy using your sharpest knife and a fork.  The process of chopping really spreads the dressing (and the smaller pieces) makes it so much easier to chew.  So, any salad tips you want to share??

Quick Berry Dressing (Anthony Dissen):  

1 cup berries, 2 tbs mustard, 1 tsp honey, 1-2 cloves of minced garlic, 1/2 tsp black pepper, pinch of sea salt, juice and zest of two lemons.  Put all in blender and blend until smooth.  Add bit more lemon juice or dash of water if dressing is too thick.

Sweet and Sour  Vinaigrette (Joan Brame):

Recipe is for a very large salad or mason jar.  6 tbs extra virgin olive oil, 4 tbs balsamic vinegar, 1.5 tbs low-sodium soy sauce or tamari, 3-4 packets of stevia or organic honey, 1 tbs onion powder, 1 tsp basil, 2 shakes of hot pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp black pepper.  Combine all and shake.

Amansala Dressing  (Amansala resort in Tulum, Mexico):

Add chunk of ginger and 2 cloves garlic to blender with 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup sesame oil, 1-2 tbs honey, and 1-2 tbs soy sauce. Blend fully.



1 Comment
  1. Thanks Joan for your healthy salads.

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