When I was newly Plant-Based I found lunch the hardest meal of the day, I can’t really remember why now, but I can remember complaining about it to friends. Salads are a common lunch item, but I’m not the kind of person who can eat just an “old school” salad for lunch, I would be super hungry later on. That is, until I started to explore super salads made with mixed greens, which I then loaded with brown rice, beans, seeds, and more.
Super salads pack a ton of nutrition. Leafy greens are full of micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals), and many of them, such as kale and spinach, have a higher protein content than iceberg or romaine lettuce. You can put anything you want in a salad there are no rules other than watch the calorie and fat content if weight loss is your goal Seeds and nuts are very calorific and should be used sparingly if you are trying to lose weight. There’s a myth that being plant-based will mean you are slim, this is not the case, many plant-based foods can be high fat and/or calorie, so choose carefully.
There’s another huge myth that you can’t get enough protein on a plant-based diet, and this has been proven to be incorrect a long time ago, but the topic still comes up here and there. You can get enough protein from plant sources unless you are not eating enough calories. You do not need to eat a complete protein in every meal, as the many different types of proteins are utilized by your body. There are many complete proteins in the plant-based world. Including soy (tofu, edamame), quinoa, hemp seeds, and more.
The week before Christmas, I binge purchased vegetables at Farmboy, I bought an insane amount. Their vegetable section gets me every time. I then had the daunting task of ensuring nothing went to waste. I cooked 2 or 3 veggies at every meal, and whatever was leftover, I tossed into salads. Farmboy carries very fresh vegetables. I’m often surprised at how long they stay fresh in my refrigerator. I’ve done things like thought, “oh poop,” I forgot about that cauliflower I bought ages ago, pulled it out, and it was still good to go.
Here’s how to create a protein-packed salad, whose protein content will shock you. As well, these slow-burning carbs will fuel your afternoon, making you energized and less likely to need that sugary snack.
2 to 3 cups Baby Kale (a cup of kale has 2.2 grains of protein)
2 to 3 cups Baby Spinach
2 to 3 cups Super greens
topping will make your salad more filling and sustain you)
½ cup Brown Rice (one cup has 5 grams of protein)
½ cup Quinoa (One cup has 5 to 8 grams of complete protein)
Salad Topping #3
½ cup Chickpeas (one cup has 15 grams of protein)
½ cup Your favorite beans (beans average 13 to 17 grams of protein, edamame is a complete protein)
(Anything goes at this stage, pick your favorite, peas, broccoli, and mushrooms are higher in protein)
Peas (one cup has 9 grains of protein)
Broccoli (one cup has 9 grains of protein)
Mushrooms (one cup has 9 grains of protein)
Roasted sweet potatoes
Your favorite veggie
A very comprehensive list of the protein content of many vegetables and grains.
Seeds are the “bomb”, you can top your salads with them, and some have minimal flavor, but full of good fats and protein. Seeds can be high calorie when used in large amounts, so if weight loss is a goal, use only a tablespoon or so, you can mix them up a bit and use a variety.
Pumpkin (Complete protein, 2 tbsp has 3.5 grams of protein)
Chia (2 tbsp has 6 grams of protein)
Hemp (2 tbsp has 4 grams of protein)
Finally, the salad dressing, many bottled dressings are high in sugar, use honey, or have too many chemicals in them to increase their shelf life. Look around for better brands or make your own. I prefer homemade salad dressings, and they are super easy to make
An all-time favorite is this hummus dressing created by food blogger Dreena Burton, I’ve made it countless times, and while it takes a bit longer than some, it’s well worth it.
This recipe is from Dreenaburton.com follow her for great recipes.
This quick and easy hemp seed salad dressing is also great and can be mixed up in minutes with very little preparation. It thickens well in the refrigerator.
Hemp seed dressing
1/2 cup hulled hemp seeds
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/4-1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, to taste
This dressing can become quite creamy. Nutritional yeast does have a sharper flavor, and it’s often used as a cheese substitute. If you find the taste of nutritional yeast overpowering, cut back to 1 tablespoon of the yeast and reduce your water by about the same.
To sum it up, try super salads for lunch to increase your micro-nutrients, maintain better energy and reduce your dependence on a later afternoon sugary snack or coffee. Your body with thank you for it.
Sheree Nicholson is the owner of Live With Spirit Yoga & Fitness studio in Whitby, Ontario. She has a certificate in plant-based nutrition from eCornell University and is working on her Masters in Metaphysics. Sheree holds certifications in Advanced Yoga, Pilates, Reebok Spinning and Kettlebell training. This benefits you as she focuses on functional movement, strength and weight loss. Sheree competed in both Canadian and American Kettlebell competitions placing in the top 3.
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